Representatives continue to meet behind closed doors to discuss ethics complaint

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A group of Missouri lawmakers met for hours late Wednesday afternoon behind closed doors to discuss an ethics complaint.

This is the third time the House Ethics Committee, made up of 10 representatives, has met for hours behind closed doors since the end of October. Members were discussing an alleged ethics complaint regarding House Speaker Dean Plocher, R-Des Peres. With the legislative session set to start next month, representatives gave no indication of when the investigation would conclude.

“Our task is to protect the integrity of the institution,” Rep. Hannah Kelly, R-Mountain Grove, said to reporters following the meeting on Wednesday. “In the corporate world, in the private business world, we would be considered an HR (human resources) department.”

In a meeting closed to the public on Wednesday, representatives spent nearly three hours discussing a personnel inquiry and an ethics complaint.

“We’re tasked with a serious responsibility of due process, and this is not a court of law,” Kelly said. “This is the Ethics Committee of the Missouri House of Representatives, so anything is possible until a final outcome, a decision, is made.”

The role of the House Ethics Committee is to investigate complaints regarding members of the lower chamber. The committee is split evenly between five Democrats and five Republicans. Details of the meeting are confidential and none of the testimony or discussions are released to the public until a report is issued.

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This comes at a time when the top leader in the House is making headlines. Calls for Plocher’s resignation come after he began paying back roughly $4,000 that he was reimbursed for regarding work-related travel that he paid out of his campaign fund. Most of those calls came from other Republicans like Rep. Mazzie Boyd, R-Hamilton, Rep. Doug Richey, R-Excelsior Springs and Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester.

Plocher, who is also running for lieutenant governor, fired his chief of staff earlier this month, around the same time the House was discussing contracts and bids for a new software company. Plocher was pushing to hire a private company costing $800,000.

Rep. Robert Sauls, D-Kansas City, who serves as vice chair of the bipartisan panel, said the committee has made progress, but there’s still more work to be done.

“Does it take time? Yeah, and actually, we want it to because no one wants to be accused of rushing and making a wrong decision when the information wasn’t present,” Sauls said. “We want to be thorough to make sure that we are doing what we’re supposed to and ensuring that due process is followed.

The committee can recommend punishments as harsh as expulsion, but lesser sanctions are also a possibility, such as a letter of reprimand.

Plocher, who was not at the meeting, said he’s not resigning. He has one term left as speaker before his terms out.

As of now, Kelly said a future hearing has not been scheduled. The legislative session starts Jan. 3, 2024.


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