Greitens' resigns, changing state leadership

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Fitzpatrick sees vetos pending before exit

Gov. Eric Greitens

Missouri Governor Eric Greitens has resigned his office in an announcement made late Tuesday afternoon. The resignation takes effect Friday.

The 44-year-old Rhodes Scholar and former Navy SEAL made the announcement following an investigation into his affair with a former hairdresser that led to broader investigation by prosecutors and state legislature.

The announcement came nearly 17 months after he took the oath of office, pledging to root out corrupt career politicians.

A St. Louis grand jury indicted Greitens on Feb. 22 on one felony count of invasion of privacy after it came to light he had allegedly taken a photo of a woman at his home without her consent. The act reportedly occurred in April 2015, before Greitens was elected governor. The charge was later dismissed during jury selection.

Greitens has also been charged with improper use of a charity donor list to raise money for his 2016 campaign, which is also a felony.

Approximately two weeks ago, members of the Missouri Legislature started meeting in special session to consider whether to initiate impeachment proceedings to remove Greitens from office. A special House investigatory committee has subpoenaed Greitens to testify next Monday, June 4.

Lt. Gov. Mike Parson will transition into the governor's seat.

Greitens' announcement sent shock waves through the state but political participants like State Representative Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob) viewed the action with some relief.

"The problems with the governor and his ability to lead were mounting," said Fitzpatrick. "It was getting to the point of being unrecoverable. At the end of the day, I think this is hard for a lot of reasons, but I think ultimately the good outweighs the bad, and not force the state to endure the rest of the process, leading to impeachment."

As chairman of the House budget committee, Fitzpatrick became a major player in forming the state's budget. This session he clashed with Greitens over public education spending cuts and ultimately prevailed in securing full funding for the Foundation Formula following the conference committee resolution with the Missouri Senate.

"I agree with the governor on a lot of policy issues," Fitzpatrick said. "Really the whole process [building to impeachment] has been difficult for me. I supported a lot of what he wanted to accomplish, particularly through the budget."

Fitzpatrick did not see a change in the top government leadership, replacing Greitens with Lieutenant Governor Mike Parson, seriously impacting Fitzpatrick's government role.

"I really look at my job as remaining the same," Fitzpatrick said. "The way I look at my job is holding the burecracy accountable for how it spends its money, setting priorities in what we fund and what we don't fund. That doesn't change."

Fitzpatrick said he spoke to Parson "a couple weeks ago" and has a good working relationship with him.

Greitens' departure will impact the legislative timetable. Fitzpatrick said with the deadline for the Speaker of the House to have bills ready for the governor to sign in May 30. With Greitens' resignation taking effect on Friday, he will still have time to veto legislation.

"There could be a window of opportunity for the governor to sign or veto legislation prior to exiting the office," Fitzpatrick said. "We're constitutionally required to have a veto override session no matter what in September. We have to gavel in and out in any event."

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