Gov. Greitens to resign Friday; Lt. Gov. Parson to be sworn in then

By: 
Dave Marner

Republican Gov. Eric Greitens didn’t make many friends in the Capitol. 

In fact, he alienated many of the state’s top Republican leaders.

As of 5 p.m. Friday, Greitens will step down as governor and Lt. Gov. Mike Parson will replace him. Embroiled in a scandal which includes an admitted extra-marital affair with his former hairdresser and allegations of  felony data tampering for using a charity donor list to raise campaign contributions, Greitens announced Tuesday he would resign on June 1.

Greitens announced his intent to resign Tuesday during an apparently hastily scheduled 4:15 p.m. press conference held in his office. The conference was announced to the media at 3:35 p.m.

Reports earlier in the day suggested a Cole County court ruling titled the table against Greitens in his bid to avoid what Republican leadership in both the House and Senate have been asking to do for the past month — resign.

A Cole judge ruled subpoenas issued by a special House committee investigating Greitens would be enforced. A request for documents from his campaign and the non-profit A New Missouri, Inc., would be enforced.

“I know, and people of good faith know, that I am not perfect, but I have not broken any laws nor committed any offense worthy of this treatment,” Greitens said in his brief appearance Tuesday. “I will let the fairness of this process be judged by history.”

He took no questions.

Greitens’ campaign stressed family values and he vowed to eliminate corruption in the Capitol. He vowed to put an end to gifts lobbyists shared with elected officials.

Yet, he was the one who refused to disclose the donors to his campaign and those who funded his inauguration in 2017.

Although charges related to his extra-marital affair were dropped, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, a Democrat who — by many accounts bungled the prosecution of felony invasion of privacy charges against Greitens, on Tuesday said her office had reached a “fair and just resolution” with the governor’s attorneys.

He still faces felony data tampering for using a charity donor list from The Missouri Continues, a veteran’s charity organization, to raise campaign contributions.

“I have been in contact with the governor’s defense team over the past several days,” Gardner said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon. “We have reached a fair and just resolution of the pending charges. We will provide more information (Wednesday).”

Lt. Gov. Mike Parson, also a Republican, is scheduled to take over for Greitens immediately after his resignation takes effect.

Parson drove to Jefferson City on Tuesday afternoon from his farm in southwest Missouri.

“With Governor Greitens’ decision to resign from office, he has put the best interests of our state and all Missourians at the forefront where they belong,”
 Parson said in a statement release after his 6 p.m. return to Jefferson City. “This is a decision that will allow our state to heal and move forward from what has been a difficult time. This is an enormous responsibility serving as our state’s next governor, and I am ready to fulfill the duties of the office with honor and integrity, and with a steadfast commitment to making our great state even greater for the people we are entrusted to serve.”

Greitens had received a subpoena last week to appear before the House committee investigating him to answer questions which could have resulted in his eventual impeachment. 

Only 21 House members and four Senators did not sign a May 3 petition calling for a special session to continue the investigation into Greitens’s actions.

State Sen. Mike Kehoe, the Senate’s majority floor leader, suggested in January the governor should resign after details of his affair broke in the state’s news outlets.

“The governor’s announcement marks the conclusion to a drama that has drawn on for far too long,” said Kehoe in a statement released Tuesday. “It is regrettable the state of Missouri is in this position, but far more regrettable would have been for this spectacle to continue to drag on.”

Kehoe, a Republican from Jefferson City, has been a vocal critic of the governor’s leadership. 

“For all practical purposes, Missouri has been without a governor for the last five months, with the President Pro Tem and the Speaker of the House leading the state in the governor’s absence,” Kehoe’s statement reads. “Our founding fathers designed a system of government to ensure Missouri is more than one individual, and this will be proven true again in the coming weeks and months.”

The Senate’s ranking member, President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, had this to say in a prepared statement.

“The last five months have been trying times for our state,” said Richard. “Relationships were strained, and bonds were tested. When the governor took office in January of 2017, I had very high hopes. I believed we were on the path to building a better Missouri. This is not the position I imagined we would be in nearly 16 months later. However, I do believe the governor made the right decision.

“The governor’s office is bigger than one person. Missouri is strong. Just this session, the Legislature set the framework for greater economic growth. I have full confidence that Lt. Governor Mike Parson and other leaders across the state will continue building a better Missouri, while leading with conservative values. I can assure you, no matter what happens next, Missouri is in good hands.”

In the House, the Republican-controlled leadership has repeatedly asked for Greitens to resign. On Tuesday, House Speaker Todd Richardson, Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr, and Majority Floor Leader Rob Vescovo issued a joint statement on Greitens’ resignation.

“We believe the Governor has put the best interest of Missourians first today by choosing to resign. The past few months have been difficult for everyone involved, including the Governor and his family. This is a serious and solemn occasion that reminds us that our state and our duty are bigger than any one person or party.

“The House stands ready to help ensure a smooth transition of power to Governor Parson. The hallmark of democracy is that our public service is temporary. Missouri has been blessed with an unbroken line of men and women in public service who have worked to make our state better, and the work of the many dedicated public servants, who work tirelessly for the people of Missouri, will continue.

“The responsibility the House undertook with its investigation is not a path any of us would have chosen, but it is one we were obligated to pursue in an effort to do what is best for our state. We want to thank the members of the Special Investigative Committee on Oversight for the serious and professional manner in which they went about their task. We also want to thank the staff for the countless hours and sacrifices they made.

“As public servants, our solemn duty is to put the best interests of the people of this great state first in every decision we make. The Governor’s decision today honors that duty and allows Missouri to move forward toward a better tomorrow.”

Parson, a former sheriff in Polk County, spoke in Gasconade County during a small fund-raiser activity at White Mule Winery. He’s a former state representative and served in the senate.

Parson was elected Missouri’s 47th Lieutenant Governor on Nov. 8, 2016, and received the most votes of any Lieutenant Governor in Missouri history, according to KSDK.

According to Lathrop Gage Consulting in Jefferson City, bills approved during the recently completed legislative session will now be reviewed and signed, or vetoed, by Parson who will take over immediately as governor of Missouri once Greitens’ resignation is in effect.

Greitens spoke briefly and took no questions. He called the legal actions against him and his colleagues “legal harassment.”

“The last few months have been incredibly difficult for me, for my family, for my team, for my friends and for many, many people,” he said. “This ordeal has been designed to cause an incredible amount of strain on my family; millions of dollars of mounting legal bills, endless personal attacks designed to cause maximum damage to family and friends; legal harassment of colleagues, friends and campaign workers.

“It’s clear that for the forces that oppose us there is no end in sight. I cannot allow those forces to continue to cause pain and difficulty to the people that I love.

“I know, and people of good faith know, that I am not perfect. But I have not broken any laws or committed any offense worthy of this treatment. I will let the fairness of this process be judged by history.”

And, he added, “A great deal of work is left undone. The time has come, though, to tend to those who have been wounded, and to care for those who need us most. So for the moment, let us walk off the battlefield with our heads held high.”

U.S. Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer and U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt also expressed relief that Greitens had decided to step down.