By Annika Merrilees
A special session of the Missouri Legislature will begin later this month to decide whether to discipline Gov. Eric Greitens for the alleged misconduct detailed in reports released by the House Investigative Committee.
Every south county legislator in the Missouri House of Representatives and Senate signed a petition for the special session, joining more than 80 percent of lawmakers. The effort started in the GOP, and Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-Oakville, was one of the first to sign.
“Unfortunately, this is where the facts led,” said Todd Richardson, GOP speaker of the House.
The Legislature will be charged with considering the recommendations the investigative committee will make, the most serious of which would be impeachment.
The special session will begin immediately after the regular session ends on May 18 and will give the committee time to “investigate and collect relevant information surrounding the conduct of Gov. Greitens,” Richardson said.
At a press conference following the May 3 session, Republican leaders said 138 representatives and 29 senators had signed the petition to enact a special session. They only needed 123 in the House and 26 in the Senate.
The petition was signed by every south county lawmaker, including Sen. Scott Sifton, D-Affton, and Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester. It was also signed by Haefner, Rep. Doug Beck, D-Affton, Rep. Bob Burns, D-Affton, David Gregory, R-Sunset Hills, Rep. Mike Revis, D-Fenton, and Rep. Sarah Unsicker, D-Shrewsbury.
For the first portion of the session, the investigative committee is expected to continue its work, Richardson said. The session is limited to 30 days.
“The House and the Senate agree that the committee should have the time it needs to conduct a fair, thorough and timely investigation,” Richardson said.
In addition to the House investigation, the governor faces two felony charges. One involves allegations made by Greitens’ former hairstylist that he sexually and physically abused her in 2015. The other involves reported misuse of a donor list taken from a nonprofit Greitens ran that was used to raise funds for his campaign. In response to criticism from Greitens’ team that the investigative committee has only heard from one side, Richardson said “the committee has made itself available for any witness the governor wanted to produce, to take testimony from the governor, to review any documents.”
The petition was delivered to the Secretary of State’s Office at a little after 7 p.m. May 3.
If the process leads the House to vote for impeachment, the Senate would then select a panel of seven “jurists” to hear the case. Ron Richard, president pro tem of the Senate, said they have not begun the process of vetting judges to appoint to such a panel.
This is the first time that the Legislature has called itself into a special session in Missouri’s history. All previous special sessions have been called by a governor.
Despite the circumstances, Richardson said the session “has quietly turned into one of the most successful sessions of my time.”
House Democrats had been holding out from signing the petition, because they wanted the issue to be dealt with immediately instead of delayed to a special session. But with time growing short, they signed last week.
“No one takes pleasure in this, but I think it is something that we absolutely have to do,” said House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City. “My constituents want to know why we haven’t done something already.”
Kathryn Hardison and Gloria Lloyd contributed to this report.