Republican who led investigation into Dean Plocher could be subject of new ethics complaint • Missouri Independent

Days after ending an investigation into Missouri House Speaker Dean Plocher, the Republican who led that investigation has resigned from the committee as it prepares to discuss a new complaint.

According to a letter to legislative staff from House Speaker Pro Tem Mike Henderson, a member of Plocher’s leadership team, State Rep. Hannah Kelly requested to be temporarily removed from the ethics committee as it investigates a new complaint filed Wednesday.

While the complaint itself, as well as who filed it, is confidential under House rules, Kelly’s decision to resign from the committee is an indication that she may be the subject.

Kelly declined comment Thursday morning.

Plocher also appears to have withdrawn, leaving Henderson to appoint state Rep. Rick Francis of Perryville as the commission’s new chairman. The committee will hold a hearing on the new complaint on Monday evening.

Plocher declared victory this week after the ethics committee voted to end the months-long investigation into his alleged misconduct without recommending any punishment.

But despite avoiding a formal reprimand, Plocher still faces questions surrounding allegations that he deliberately delayed and obstructed the investigation – including by intimidating potential witnesses.

To bolster the accusations, Kelly released an email she received in early March from the director of Missouri House administration detailing behavior by the speaker’s office over several months that was allegedly intended to intimidate nonpartisan legislative staff.

“In my more than 21 years of working in state government, I have never witnessed or even been involved in such a hostile work environment so horrendous that I live every day in fear of losing my job,” said the email of March 5.

A lawyer hired by the ethics committee to gather evidence in the Plocher investigation wrote to the committee that she had never encountered such uncooperative witnesses “in any investigation in my career.

“The level of fear expressed by a number of potential witnesses,” the attorney wrote, “is a discouraging factor in completing this investigation.”

And three times in March and April, Plocher refused to sign the committee’s subpoena requests.

Plocher has vehemently denied all allegations, including that he obstructed the investigation.

He noted that the committee admitted that it could not find any evidence of wrongdoing in the litany of charges against him – his failed attempt to get the House to sign it an $800,000 contract with a private software company outside the normal bidding process; alleged threats of retaliation against nonpartisan legislative staff who raised red flags about that contract; alleged firing of a potential whistleblower; and years of falsehood expense reports for travel already paid for by his campaign.

“I am grateful that my family will no longer have to endure the hardship caused by these false allegations and this investigation,” Plocher said, later adding, “I vehemently deny that I have obstructed anything.”

State Rep. Brian Seitz, a Republican from Branson, said the entire ordeal was “much ado about nothing.”

“What was once a committee hearing became an inquisition,” he said. “It went from an inquisition to a witch hunt.”

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, a Springfield Democrat who is running for governor, said she was most disturbed by the allegations of staff harassment, particularly the letter from the director of the House of Representatives. government, calling the situation ‘very worrying’.

Although she said she had heard rumors of staff abuse in recent months, it was all second or third hand.

“It’s one thing to hear rumors,” Quade said. “It’s another thing entirely to see an itemized list from a respected, long-time nonpartisan staff member.”

The allegations are serious enough to warrant action, Quade said. But with just two weeks to go before the adjournment and a long list of unfinished legislative business, she admits it’s unlikely anything will happen this year. Ultimately, it will be up to the next leadership team that takes over in January, when Plocher’s term is over.

“The impartial staff is the skeleton of democracy. I mean, it sounds lame to say that, but it’s true,” Quade said. “These people are all underpaid and overworked, and the leadership in the building needs to recognize all that these people give to our state as public servants.”