The vice chair of the Missouri House Ethics Committee has been removed from reviewing a complaint the committee is probing this week, a major sign that the complaint is likely centered on embattled Missouri House Speaker Dean Plocher.
State Rep. Richard Brown, a Kansas City Democrat who was removed from reviewing the complaint on Tuesday, and Plocher, a Republican from the St. Louis area, are both running for lieutenant governor in 2024. Brown’s position on the ethics committee had raised questions about whether he could remain impartial while the committee probed Plocher.
Plocher is facing calls to resign after reports surfaced that he received government reimbursements over several years for expenses also paid for by his campaign. He has also come under scrutiny over an unsuccessful push for the House to hire a company to manage constituent information and a decision to fire his chief of staff last month.
House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, a Springfield Democrat who is running for governor in 2024, wrote in a Tuesday letter that she was appointing state Rep. David Tyson Smith, a Columbia Democrat, to temporarily replace Brown on the ethics committee.
The committee, which investigates complaints against House lawmakers in secret, is scheduled to meet Wednesday on two issues — the complaint and a “personnel inquiry” related to Plocher’s decision to fire his chief of staff last month. Quade, in her letter, only removed Brown from reviewing the complaint and did not remove him from probing the personnel inquiry.
Brown and Plocher did not immediately return calls for comment on Tuesday. Quade’s chief of staff said she declined comment on the letter.
Quade’s letter said the move was made pursuant to an ethics committee rule that allows any party to object to a member’s ability to examine a complaint “on the grounds that the member cannot render an impartial and unbiased decision in the case.”
While the committee has not spoken publicly about its investigations, it is likely reviewing a complaint of “ethical misconduct” against an unnamed House lawmaker that The Star first reported on last week.
While the focus of the complaint is unclear, documents obtained by The Star showed that a House lawmaker filed the complaint against another House lawmaker. Plocher, who as speaker is in charge of referring complaints to the ethics committee, recused himself from the matter — a sign that the complaint could be related to him.
The committee’s separate “personnel inquiry” probe is related to Plocher’s decision to fire his chief of staff, Kenny Ross, earlier this year. That firing came in the fallout of Plocher’s push for the outside software company earlier this year.
Calls have been mounting for Plocher to resign related to his campaign reimbursements, including from members in his own party. He has started to pay back the money he improperly received.
Plocher, for his part, has vowed to stay in office, saying he would “absolutely not” resign.