That was the final statement to the House Thursday from Representative Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City) before the chamber adopted a resolution that launches its investigation of a felony charge against Governor Eric Greitens (R). Barnes will chair the Special Investigative Committee on Oversight that will conduct that investigation.
A St. Louis grand jury last month indicted Greitens 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.
Barnes discussed with other members how the investigation will be conducted. He said the committee will close its hearings to the public when witnesses are giving testimony.
“The reason for that, if you think about legal process and the context of a trial where testimony is given, other witnesses in a case are excluded from the courtroom while a separate witness is testifying … lawyers call that, ‘invoking the rule.’ So we could ‘invoke the rule,’ but if we have a public hearing, invoking the rule means nothing because everything that a previous witness says would be reported to other potential witnesses and they could come in and that would color their testimony based on what they had heard previous witnesses have said, and I think the best way to get accurate information is to close those hearings so that other potential witnesses don’t know what previous witnesses said,” Barnes explained.
Barnes said the first witnesses the committee will question are individuals that were identified in publicly-available documents and documents that have been reported on, though he did not name them. He said subpoenas would be sent to those witnesses. Based on their testimony, more individuals could be called to testify.
Democrats expressed concerns that they would like more clarity about what possible actions will remain after the committee completes its work, but in the end they joined in supporting the resolution.
Columbia representative Kip Kendrick (D) said the situation with the governor has become a distraction for lawmakers. He wished the committee well in conducting its investigation.
“It’s an embarrassment for everyone in this body, for everyone in this chamber, for the whole state,” said Kendrick. “The charge of this committee to hold this investigation is very serious. Outside of passing the budget this year it’s probably the most serious thing that’s happening … I hope that everyone in this chamber, on both sides of the aisle, don’t enter into the partisan bickering or partisan fights on this moving forward. There are going to be attempts to make this a partisan issue and it’s not. This should be a fair and thorough process that should be allowed to play out.”
House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty (D-Kansas City) asked Barnes about the process, and at the end of her inquiry told him, “We’re putting all of our trust in you to handle this properly.”
Barnes acknowledged to the chamber the levity of the job before him and the committee.
“This is a solemn and serious obligation. Thank you for the trust that you have placed in me and the members of this committee and the trust that this body places in us. We will do our best,” said Barnes.
The committee, whose other members are vice chairman Don Phillips (R-Kimberling City) and representatives Jeanie Lauer (R-Blue Springs), Kevin Austin (R-Springfield), Shawn Rhoads (R-West Plains), Gina Mitten (D-St. Louis), and Tommie Pierson, Jr (D-St. Louis), is expected to begin holding hearings next week.