Nixon may face subpoena about decisions made in Ferguson

Panel chairman vows aggressive investigation

Gov. Jay Nixon

Gov. Jay Nixon

By Michael Lindquist

JEFFERSON CITY — The chairman of a joint legislative committee vows an aggressive investigation into why Missouri’s governor did not use National Guard troops to protect businesses in the aftermath of the grand jury decision not to indict a Ferguson police officer.

Gov. Jay Nixon faces the threat of a subpoena if he does not show up to a Joint Committee on Governmental Accountability hearing to explain his decisions about deploying the Missouri National Guard and the role they would play in Ferguson.

One member of the committee, Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-St. Louis County, said he just wants the truth.

“I want to understand how we got there,” Schmitt said. “As somebody that represents St. Louis County, as someone that grew up in north county, this whole situation is incredibly sad and I have to believe that the governor understood that this was a contingency, a possibility, that something like this may happen — although we were hoping it wouldn’t in Ferguson that night.

“And, with the National Guard and those resources at its disposal, why weren’t they on the ground protecting those businesses and the people whose dreams went up in flames that night? Where were they and why weren’t they on the streets in Ferguson?”

The committee’s chairman, Sen. Kurt Schaefer, D-Columbia, talked about broad record demands from state agencies and subpoenas to force testimony by agency officials.

“By statute, this committee does have the authority to issue subpoenas, issue necessary writs, and to take depositions,” Schaefer said. “So, to the extent that we need to find the truth, I think all of those tools at our disposal and available to all of us to get the information that we need to get.”

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis city, said she would support a subpoena if the governor did not come before the committee.

“The question is: Who made the decision to not bring in the National Guard?” Nasheed asked. “Who was talking to who? Was the National Guard talking to the governor’s office? The governor’s office talking to the Public Safety Department?”

In response, the governor’s spokesman, Scott Holste, emailed a statement that the governor promised to help rebuild the destroyed businesses. The statement, however, gave no indication if Nixon would be willing to appear before the legislative committee.

Nixon had activated the National Guard prior to the grand jury’s decision.

But on the night the grand jury decision to not indict the Ferguson police officer for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, guard troops were not deployed to protect businesses in the area.

Numerous businesses were burned in the protests and lawlessness that followed announcement of the grand jury’s decision.

In the emailed statement, Holste wrote that the governor “will be working with those businesses every step of the way to help them rebuild.”

Holste’s statement wrote that the objective was to protect public safety locations and power stations.

“The fact that no citizens, law enforcement officers or firefighters lost their lives is a testament to the hard work and professionalism of the men and women who worked day and night to protect the public,” Holste wrote.

The amount of troops initially deployed increased the next day — Nov. 25.

“The violence we saw in areas of Ferguson last night is unacceptable,” Nixon said as stated in a news release at the time. “That is why today I am meeting with leaders from the Guard and law enforcement to ensure the protection of lives and property.”