Fight over Greitens’ school board appointees spills into Missouri House

Missouri Capitol

JEFFERSON CITY • A day before a Senate panel weighs in on one of Gov. Eric Greitens’ controversial appointees to the state school board, a House panel debated a plan to rein in the governor’s ability to name people to key boards and commissions.

Under legislation outlined Tuesday, the governor would be barred from using many of the tactics he employed to stack the school board and other commissions with his appointees. For example, he would have to inform the Senate of any appointments made to state boards or commissions when the Legislature is not in session.

The proposal also would slow down the appointment process and require more transparency when a governor names members to the scores of boards and commissions that oversee state laws and regulations.

It also would bar appointees who haven’t been confirmed by the Senate from voting if they were appointed at a time when the Legislature is not session.

Starting in July, the now-embattled governor appointed 10 individuals to the state board overseeing policies affecting the state’s 900,000 school children. Of those 10, two declined the appointment and one resigned saying he was being pressured to fire former state Schools Commissioner Margie Vandeven. Two others were removed by the Republican governor after they said they were being pushed to remove the commissioner.

In December, with some of the board’s membership still in flux, the board met behind closed doors and voted 5-3 to fire Vandeven, setting off at least two lawsuits over how the appointment process was manipulated by Greitens.

The five Greitens appointees, Jennifer Edwards, Eddy Justice, Doug Russell, Marvin Jungmeyer and Eric Teeman, are awaiting confirmation by the Senate.

Justice, a Republican Party fundraiser from Poplar Bluff, is scheduled to go before a Senate panel Wednesday that could signal the fate of the other appointees.

For now, without the new members being confirmed, the state board cannot meet because of a lack of a quorum.

The proposed changes were approved earlier in the Senate on a 22-10 vote, but its sponsor, Sen. Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau, suggested a final version may be different because of constitutional concerns.

In addition to the school board changes, Greitens also used his appointment power to place his picks on the Missouri Housing Development Commission, which then carried out his plan to cut off state funding for low-income housing tax credits.

The governor also appointed new members to the Missouri Veterans Commission,who then forced the executive director, Larry Kay, to resign amid problems at the St. Louis Veterans Home.

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