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Investigation of Missouri House Speaker Dean Plocher continues next week

The Missouri House at the state Capitol in Jefferson City. (AP Photo/David A. Lieb)
David A. Lieb/AP
The Missouri House at the state Capitol in Jefferson City. The Bipartisan Legislative Committee will hold another hearing for Missouri House Speaker Dean Plocher next week. (AP Photo/David A. Lieb)

The bipartisan legislative committee investigating Missouri House Speaker Dean Plocher over allegations of ethical misconduct will hold another hearing when lawmakers return to the Capitol from spring break next week.

The House Ethics Committee — made up of five Republicans and five Democrats — will convene on Tuesday at 4 p.m. It is the committee’s fifth hearing since the legislative session began in January.

Plocher, a Republican from Des Peres who is running for lieutenant governor, has been accused over the last few months of pushing for the House to enter into a contract with a private company outside the normal bidding process; threatening retaliation against legislative staff who pushed back on that contract; improperly firing a potential whistleblower; and filing false expense reports for travel already paid for by his campaign.

More recently, Plocher has faced new criticism over his decision to spend $60,000 to remodel his Capitol office — including converting another lawmaker’s office into a liquor cabinet — and arranging meetings between legislators and an out-of-state vendor.

The swirl of scandal led the House Ethics Committee to launch an investigation late last year, and in recent weeks that inquiry has escalated.

Plocher, who has denied any wrongdoing, testified to the committee earlier this month — though confidentiality rules meant his testimony was not open to the public or the media.

Also testifying recently: state Rep. Dale Wright, the chairman of the legislative committee in charge of purchasing for the House; state Rep. Chris Sander, a Lone Jack Republican who has called for Plocher to resign; and Dana Miller, chief clerk of the House.

Proceedings of the ethics committee are required to be confidential, with none of the discussions, testimony or evidence gathered made public until a final report is issued. When its work is complete, the committee is empowered to recommend sanction for misconduct if it chooses, which can range from a reprimand all the way to expulsion from the House.

Asked about the ongoing investigation last week, Plocher said he was eager for the committee to finish its work.

“I would love to comment,” he said. “I have a whole lot to say.”

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, a Democrat from Springfield, called Plocher’s travails an “unfortunate distraction.”

Missourians deserve to know what happened, Quade said, and whether Plocher should continue to serve as speaker.

“I am grateful for the ethics committee,” she said, “for all the work they are putting into this to find out what happened here.”

The Missouri Independent is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering state government, politics and policy. It is staffed by veteran Missouri reporters and is dedicated to its mission of relentless investigative journalism that sheds light on how decisions in Jefferson City are made and their impact on individuals across the Show-Me State.
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