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Missouri House attorney says ethics matter on Speaker Plocher remains active

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(The Center Square) – Two days after a House Ethics Committee adjourned after voting to reject an investigative report on Speaker Dean Plocher, R-St. Louis, an attorney for the majority stated the matter remains active.

Hampton Williams, the majority legal counsel, issued a statement on Wednesday after several media reports on Monday’s hearing of the bipartisan committee. Williams said he received several inquiries regarding the status of “Matter 23-01.” He also mentioned public statements made by the committee’s chair, Hannah Kelly, R-Mountain Grove, who was quoted by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as saying, “We have come to the end of this process. I have done all I can do.”

Williams’ statement said the matter “remains active before the committee until an affirmative act by the majority of committee members can dispose of the matter.” Scheduled meetings of the committee for Tuesday and Wednesday were cancelled.

Williams provided the rules of procedure for the ethics committee to adjudicate a complaint in a primary hearing. The rules state a majority shall vote to dismiss the complaint, proceed to a formal hearing or offer a recommended sanction, such as a letter of reproval, reprimand, censure or expulsion.

“Those are the only actions authorized by the rules the committee may consider in disposition of a complaint,” Williams said.

During Monday’s open hearing, Kelly, a real estate broker, moved to adopt a draft report. It was defeated by two ayes, six nays and one present. Kelly and committee vice chairman Robert Sauls, D-Independence, were the “nay” votes.

The report found no wrongdoing with regard to allegations of undue influence for a public bid for a constituent management program and personnel matters, according to Williams’ summary. The report also recommended a letter of reproval pertaining to allegations Plocher improperly received an expense reimbursement of $3,998, which was repaid in full prior to the filing of any complaint, according to Williams.

“Having refused to adopt the report and letter of reproval, the disposition of the complaint remains open and pending before the Ethics Committee,” Williams said. “Contrary to some media reports, this matter is not concluded, as an affirmative decision by a majority of the committee members is required.”

Several media outlets quoted portions of the draft report, including a letter by attorney Beth Boggs, who was hired to conduct the investigation. She said Plocher, who is running for his party’s nomination for secretary of state, didn’t respond to requests to be interviewed along with his former chief of staff.

“I have not encountered more unwilling witnesses in any investigation in my career,” Boggs wrote. “The level of fear expressed by a number of the potential witnesses is a daunting factor in completing this investigation.”

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