Missouri House adopts resolution launching investigation of charge against Gov. Greitens

“We will do our best.”

Representative Jay Barnes presents a resolution that would launch the House’s investigation into a felony charge against Gov. Eric Greitens. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

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.

House Resolution 5565 authorizes the Committee.  It was approved 154-0.

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.

House Speaker Todd Richardson (right) and Majority Floor Leader Rob Vescovo (left) talk with Representatives Jay Barnes (second from right), who chairs the Special Investigative Committee on Oversight, and Representative Don Phillips (seated), the vice chair of that committee. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

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.

Representatives say flood recovery continues, urge documenting of damage

Many Missourians are still recovering from flooding in recent weeks.  Two House members say that recovery could continue for months, and urge those Missourians to document their damage.

Representative Shawn Rhoads (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Shawn Rhoads (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representatives Shawn Rhoads (R-West Plains) and Kirk Mathews (R-Pacific) were two among many House members whose districts were struck hard.

Mathews said two municipalities he serves were hit particularly hard – Eureka and Pacific.

“The areas that were affected in each one are a little different.  Eureka was more impacted in a commercial district – they had some residential – but Pacific was really impacted in a residential area.  Over 200 homes in an area that was hit very, very hard,” said Mathews.

Mathews spent an entire weekend sandbagging in both communities, and Governor Eric Greitens (R) also filled sand bags in Eureka.  Mathews said a commercial district in Eureka was protected by flood control efforts, but despite similar efforts in Pacific, many homes were damaged.

Rhoads said in West Plains six inches of rain fell in three hours.  He said preplanning there was key.  State rescue boats were part of the response effort, which was staged out of a nearly completed fire station.

“They made over 100 rescues Saturday night,” said Rhoads.  “No one hurt, nobody killed.”

Representative Kirk Matthews (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Kirk Mathews (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

As for damage, Rhoads said a few homes in West Plains were damaged while two of the hardest hit businesses were DRS, a military equipment manufacturer with government contracts, and Armstrong Flooring, each of which he said suffered damage estimated at around $10-million.

Rhoads noted that Governor Greitens praised the response in West Plains as being, “textbook.  This is the way it’s supposed to be done.”

Cleanup is continuing in both districts, but both representatives said the focus now is also shifting to documenting damage so that affected areas can get assistance.

“The assessors are turning in their damage to the [State Emergency Management Agency], and SEMA’s going to compile it up and then go east with it to the [Federal Emergency Management Agency] folks and I think that’s where we need to be quick about this so that we can get that help so we can get something to people to say, ‘Hey, look, here you go, now we got you back in normal, where you were kind of before this all happened,’” said Rhoads.

Mathews agreed that it’s important that everyone document their damage quickly, “so we can make sure that whatever funds are available are appropriately applied for.”

Meanwhile, both representatives say the long-term response will continue.

“It’s a double-edged sword for someone to lose their home but for the business that employs them to also be inoperable and they don’t have an income,” said Mathews.  “That’s why it has to be a two-pronged effort to really help the commercial areas that were affected get back on their feet as fast as we can as well as helping the people who are affected in their personal residence.”

Rhoads said relief efforts must carry on to help those displaced, whose recovery won’t be completed in a matter of days or weeks.

“People come in and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got an 8-month-old and our house is gone, and all their clothes, the changing table, the baby bed,” said Rhoads.

Both representatives lauded the response of volunteers as well as law enforcement and state officials to recent flooding.