Committee to Investigate Department Chiefs

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JEFFERSON CITY- House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, announced Tuesday he will appoint a special committee to investigate allegations made last month that the Nixon administration has created a "hostile workplace environment" within state departments.

The allegations originally surfaced from the Missouri Department of Agriculture after the Director stepped down following the resignation of an agency employee who issued a complaint against the department.

Since then, other allegations have surfaced against Larry Rebman, the former Director of the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DOLIR).

The charges were filed against him in mid-September, but Nixon appointed Rebman as the Department's Worker's Compensation Administrative Law Judge in March.

KOMU 8 was able to obtain records from former Department of Labor employee, Gracia Backer, who worked in the division of Employment Security.

Backer filed a complaint against Rebman for multiple counts of age-based discrimination and illegal and unethical nature. Backer filed her complaint with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights.

In the report, Backer said that Rebman "made it clear that he wanted younger Chiefs and Directors around him."

Backer also cited an e-mail, where Rebman instructed an investigator at the DOLIR that he wanted to "bust this guy on as many Counts" and that "just getting Marco isn't going to cut it."

Rebman claimed that his e-mail was "taken out of context by someone with a desire to try to paint an inappropriate picture."

Alvin Carter, who worked for the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, resigned from his position earlier this year. In a letter to Gov. Jay Nixon, he stated "the new opportunity that I have comes at a time when work at the Commission has become increasingly difficult primarily due to the tension created by the Department Director, Larry Rebman."

Jay Nixon's office refused to do an on-camera interview with KOMU, but issued the following statement: "The Administration has always sought, and will continue to seek, to foster a highly qualified state workforce that is not only professional in demeanor and inclusive in its composition, but also one that is productive, accountable and consistently meets the high standards taxpayers expect and deserve."

Jones has not designed a committee to investigate the allegations against the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, but is having the Government Accountability Committee, headed by Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, to investigate how government employees are appointed.

Jones did appoint Casey Guernsey, R-Bethany, to investigate allegations made against the Department of Agriculture and their treatment toward the Missouri Cattleman's Association.

The Cattleman's Association claimed the department was hostile in its treatment toward them in trying to get a bill passed through the statehouse.

"To see how they were treated underscored a lot of the concerns that lies there with the department," Guernsey said. "And that's why we have decided to go into this special committee before we go into the legislative session, to find out what all exactly is taking place."

Jones said that despite the fact the department heads are the ones being charged, Nixon is the one who is ultimately responsible for their actions.