Missouri’s special session underway, here’s what to expect
(Updated at 10:22 p.m. May 18 with the latest on the special session.)
Missouri’s special legislative session to consider whether to impeach Gov. Eric Greitens has officially begun, but so far nothing much has happened.
House and Senate members briefly opened the session Friday to make a few motions, then adjourned until Tuesday to hold technical sessions, which last a couple of minutes and only require two or three lawmakers per chamber. But the committee that’s been investigating Greitens is meeting twice next week.
On Tuesday, committee members are scheduled to adopt rules for conducting the special session and to discuss the tens of thousands of documents they’ve received from the group Greitens for Missouri. They’re also meeting on Wednesday, but the agenda for that meeting hasn’t been set.
House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, did tell reporters Friday that more lawmakers will be added to the House Special Investigative Committee on Oversight.
“There’s a whole lot of work to be done, so the more members that they have on the committee to help them with that work, the better,” he said. “To the extent that we can get them additional manpower, that’s the reason.”
Late Friday evening, the webpage for the committee showed three new members: Rep. J. Eggleston, R-Maysville; Rep. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City; and Rep. Curtis Trent, R-Springfield.
Private attorneys for public business
Also Friday, Attorney General Josh Hawley sent a letter to State Auditor Nicole Galloway, saying Greitens doesn’t have the authority to hire private attorneys to represent him in his defense before the legislature. According to the letter, “the Office of the Governor lacks the authority to retain private counsel to participate in connection with any adversarial proceeding without the Attorney General’s consent.”
Greitens spokesman Parker Briden disagreed in a written statement.
“[Missouri statute] RSMo. 26.020, provides that ‘the governor may employ and fix the compensation of such legal…assistants as may be necessary for the efficient conduct of his office.’”
Hawley could not be reached for comment Friday.
On Wednesday, committee members heard from Ed Greim and Ross Garber, two attorneys hired by Greitens “in his capacity as governor.” Greim said he’s billing the state $340 an hour, and Garber is billing the state $320 an hour, which he said is half his usual rate.
The special session is being held to consider whether to impeach Greitens over alleged actions during an extramarital affair, and over his use of a charity donor list to raise campaign funds before he was governor.
Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, says after that things will likely quiet down.
“I think we’re going to let that committee continue to work for the next week or so,” said Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, on Thursday in anticipation of the special session. “Then again, my best guess is we’re going to probably come back to the building the first week in June and look at the articles of impeachment that have been created for us. Then we can start looking at those, and acting on those.”
More open-door meetings ahead
That’s assuming the committee doesn’t recommend a lesser punishment or none at all. Richardson said to expect the House committee to move away from closed-door meetings.
“From the beginning, I’ve said we’re going to have a fair and open process, and as part of the investigation, there are elements of that that the committee has had to do privately,” he said. “But as we move into the special session, those things will be conducted in a very open and transparent manner.”
The committee, chaired by Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, held its first open hearing on Wednesday, during which the two private attorneys representing the governor’s office requested specific rules for the special session. Those include granting subpoena power to the governor’s attorneys, allowing them to cross-examine witnesses, and requiring all testimony to occur in public.
A decision on the request has not yet been made.
The committee filed suit Thursday demanding two political groups connected to the governor turn over documents related to its investigation of whether the governor broke campaign finance laws.
The Senate will basically wait on the House to act. If it does impeach the governor, the upper chamber will appoint seven judges who will decide whether to remove him from office.
Greitens maintains he’s innocent of anything illegal involving the use of a charity donor list to raise money and his extramarital affair before becoming governor.
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