Effort lead by family of MODOT worker killed by driver results in new license revocation law

The family of a highway worker killed at a job site hopes a law signed this month will keep others from facing the same tragedy.

Lyndon Ebker was killed in an April, 2016 crash while he was working in a MODOT work zone near New Haven. The driver who hit him was allowed to continue driving for more than two and a half years, and Ebker’s family and MODOT workers said that was wrong.

The driver who struck and killed Lyndon Ebker in a work zone near New Haven more than three years ago had impaired vision, but was allowed to keep driving until this past November when his license was revoked for life.  Ebker’s family and the Department of Transportation said that driver put others in danger and he should’ve been forced off the roads more quickly.

House Bill 499 would require the Department of Revenue’s Director to revoke a driver’s license if a law enforcement officer reports that the driver’s negligence contributed to a worker or emergency responder being hit in a work or emergency zone.

Ebker’s daughter, Nicole Herbel, pushed for the legislation, which was signed into law this month by Governor Mike Parson (R).

“I just want people to think about it when they’re seeing the cones or the orange flags, even the trucks, I want this law to make them stop and think, ‘That gentleman was hit and killed because somebody didn’t slow down,’ or even just to remember that they’re humans that are standing there,” said Herbel.  “Awareness really is the biggest thing for us.”

The accident that killed Ebker happened in Representative Aaron Grieshemer’s (R-Washington) district, and he sponsored HB 499.  He said he was concerned with how long the man who killed Ebker was allowed to keep driving while his case moved through the courts.

“I have heard stories from some MODOT employees that worked with Mr. Ebker that feared for their lives because knowing that this gentleman was out there driving still,” said Griesheimer.  “I’d heard another report that he had almost hit somebody else in the City of Hermann, so it was definitely a safety factor involved in this.”

The legislation was a top priority for the Department of Transportation this year, so much so that MODOT Director Patrick McKenna testified for it in a House committee.  He told lawmakers it was needed to help protect the agency’s workers.

“We try to keep our roads primarily open while we’re working on them.  It’s a considerable challenge, but we have to do it safely so we can honestly look at our employees and say the way that we’re structured will guarantee you the ability to go home every single day after shift to your family and friends, every time throughout your entire career,” McKenna told House Communications.  “We have a memorial here just about 100 yards from where I’m sitting right now with the names of not only Lyndon Ebker, but 133 other MODOT employees that through our history have lost their lives providing public service on behalf of Missouri.”

Representative Aaron Griesheimer (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

McKenna thanked all those involved in getting HB 499 through the legislative process and into law, including Rep. Griesheimer, Governor Parson, the Ebker family, the bill’s Senate sponsor, Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, and Justin Alferman, Parson’s legislative director who also filed the legislation when he was a state representative.

Herbel said though her family suffered a tremendous loss, they didn’t back HB 499 out of seeking revenge.  She said they were doing what her father would’ve done.

“If he saw someone doing something that was going to hurt themselves or hurt other people he did not hesitate to speak up, and that’s why this law is so fitting because if he had lived through this accident he would’ve done something to keep people safe.  He would not have just taken the injury and went on.  He would’ve turned around and fought for something to change.”

If a driver’s license is revoked under the new law, the license holder can seek its reinstatement by taking and passing the written and driving portions of the driver’s test, or petitioning for a hearing before a court local to the work zone where the accident occurred.

HB 499’s language is also included in Senate Bill 89, which has also been signed by the governor.  Both bills effect August 28.

Another provision in HB 499 increases the fees licenses offices can charge for state services, such as issuing driver’s licenses and license plates.

Earlier stories:

House proposes tougher license revocation laws for those who hit workers, emergency responders

Family of MODOT worker killed in work zone asks lawmakers to toughen license revocation law

House Speaker: Committee investigating governor will ‘have the time it needs to finish its work’

Missouri’s House Speaker said he doesn’t want to constrain the committee he created to investigate allegations against the state’s governor.

House Speaker Todd Richardson (image center) takes questions from reporters following the House’s adjournment on Thursday, 04/19/2018. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications – click for larger version)

“This committee’s going to have the time it needs to finish its work,” Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) said to reporters on Thursday after the House adjourned for the week.

A St. Louis grand jury in February indicted Governor Eric Greitens (R) for felony invasion of privacy.  He is accused of taking, without consent, an intimate photo of a woman with whom he had an affair in 2015.  A circuit judge in St. Louis today declined Greitens’ request to dismiss that case.

Earlier this week Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) said he has enough evidence for a felony charge against Greitens for violating campaign laws.  Hawley said Greitens took a list of those who donated to his charity for military veterans, The Mission Continues, and transferred it to his political campaign to use in fundraising efforts.

The developments concerning Greitens this week have some calling for the House to take action concerning him now, but Richardson said the chamber will stick to the plan he announced last week.  Preparations are continuing for the House to call itself into special session in case more time is needed for its members to review the recommendations of the Special Investigative Committee on Oversight, when those recommendations are ready.

“The committee didn’t believe, at that point in time, that they would be able to finish their work before the end of session.  I think they still believe that they need additional time to do that work, which is why we have begun the process of calling ourselves into a special session,” said Richardson.  “My point last week and my point this week is, there’s not going to be an artificial timeline or a deadline here.  We’re going to let the committee work, we’re going to let them work as thoroughly as they need to, and when they come back with recommendations we’ll be ready to take them up.”

As for the decision today by Judge Rex Burlison to allow the invasion of privacy case against Greitens to continue, Richardson said it has no bearing on what the House does and it never would have.

“The Missouri legislature is a separate and co-equal branch of government and no matter how that decision had gone today, the House and the Senate would continue to go through our process,” said Richardson.  “Our role and responsibilities here are different than the role of the court in the City of St. Louis so it doesn’t impact it at all.”

Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty and Representative Gina Mitten, who is the ranking Democrat on the House Special Investigative Committee on Oversight, answer questions from reporters after the House adjourned on Thursday, 04-19-2018. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications – click for larger version)

Richardson and other members of House Republican leadership said this week they believe Greitens should resign.  The President Pro Tem of the Missouri Senate, Ron Richard (R), said this week he also believes Greitens should resign, and if he does not, Richard believes he should be impeached and that effort should begin now.

Richardson said he believes he and the Senate president remain committed to the same process.

“He and I have been in constant contact, and we both want the House committee and the legislature to execute a thorough and fair process, and a process that makes sure that the members of the general assembly – who are going to be tasked with deciding some of those recommendations – that they have the most information that they need in front of them to make a good decision,” Richardson said.

The leader of the House Democrats, Gail McCann Beatty (D-Kansas City), said she thinks Speaker Richardson is handling the situation with caution, but she is anxious to see the chamber take further action regarding Greitens.

“From my perspective I think I have seen enough [to vote on impeachment now].  This is a cloud over our state.  It’s embarrassing, and we need to be moving forward to resolve this sooner than later,” said McCann Beatty.

The investigative committee has continued to meet, and has hearings scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.