Missouri Senate moves to speed up Greitens ethics inquiry

8 months 4 days 19 hours ago Thursday, April 05 2018 Apr 5, 2018 Thursday, April 05, 2018 3:49:00 PM CDT April 05, 2018 in News
By: The Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's understaffed Ethics Commission can't currently take action on a complaint against embattled Republican Gov. Eric Greitens. A bill endorsed Thursday by state senators would change that, but it would require the governor's permission to do so.

The legislation given initial Senate approval would immediately reduce the number of positions on the Missouri Ethics Commission from six to four, effectively restoring a quorum to conduct business that has been lacking for three weeks because of three vacancies.

Pending before the commission is a complaint alleging Greitens' gubernatorial campaign falsely reported how it obtained a donor list in 2015 of a charity Greitens founded. The complaint also alleges the campaign failed to disclose that it got the charity's email list.

Republican Sen. Bob Dixon, of Springfield, who introduced the proposal, said the change would "ensure the credibility of the process going forward."

The legislation needs a second Senate vote to go to the House and would also require Greitens' signature to become law.

Under current law, it would be Greitens' responsibility to appoint three new ethics commissioners, who would be subject to Senate confirmation.

Greitens' spokesman Parker Briden has said previously that the governor's office was waiting on political party committees to nominate candidates, and expected nominations to be made before the commission's next meeting on April 25.

Briden did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday about the Senate legislation.

Dixon said previously that the governor's ability to appoint the people who will investigate him is a potential "constitutional crisis."

Lingering vacancies are important because state law says the commission has 90 days after a complaint is filed to decide whether to dismiss it or refer it to its counsel for further investigation. The complaint against Greitens was filed in mid-March.

University of Missouri political science professor Peverill Squire said a smaller commission could run the risk of allowing one or two strong personalities to dominate. But, he added: "It might be a reasonable response to a highly unusual set of circumstances."

Dixon's proposal would expand the Ethics Commission's membership to a total of eight by 2021. The additions would be staggered to limit the number of vacancies at any given time.

No senators spoke against the proposal Thursday.

Greitens also faces a felony invasion-of-privacy charge for allegedly taking a nude or partially nude photograph of a woman without her consent and transmitting it in a way that could be accessed by a computer. He has admitted to having an affair with the woman before he became governor, but denied that he broke any laws. A trial is scheduled for next month in St. Louis.

A House committee that's also investigating that incident is expected to release a report summarizing its findings next week.

___

The bill is SB 843

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