March 29, 2015

Funeral set for Schweich, interim Missouri auditor appointed

A memorial service for Missouri Auditor and candidate for governor Tom Schweich will be held Tuesday at the church he attended in Clayton. The service will be at 10 a.m. at the Church of St. Michael and St. George.

Tom Schweich

Tom Schweich

Schweich died Thursday morning in what police say was an apparent suicide.

Governor Jay Nixon has appointed his senior advisor and long-time staffer as Missouri State Auditor until he makes a permanent appointment. Nixon says John Watson will fill the role until Nixon designates someone to fill out the rest of Tom Schweich’s four-year term, which began in January.

Nixon says Watson will, “serve as state auditor and carry out the important functions of the office until a permanent appointment is made.”

Watson has worked with Nixon since 1997, when he was chief of staff while Nixon was attorney general. He was Nixon’s chief of staff from January 2009 through December of 2014.

“I have tremendous respect for the State Auditor’s Office, and I will carry out these duties in service to the people of Missouri,” Watson said. “I continue to keep Tom Schweich’s family and friends in my thoughts and prayers, and join them in mourning this loss.”

Reports: Schweich called reporters minutes before apparent suicide

Clayton police are investigating the death of Missouri auditor and candidate for governor Tom Schweich as an apparent suicide. They were called to Schweich’s home shortly before 10 Thursday morning.

The campaign site for Tom Schweich's campaign for governor has been replaced with this photo of his family and the message, "Please join with all Missourians in praying for Tom’s family, including his wife Kathy and children, Emilie and Thomas, Jr."

The website for Tom Schweich’s campaign for governor has been replaced with this photo of his family and the message, “Please join with all Missourians in praying for Tom’s family, including his wife Kathy and children, Emilie and Thomas, Jr.”

An autopsy is scheduled for this morning at 7:30.

“Everything we know at this time is that it is an apparent act at Mr. Schweich’s own hand and family is cooperating with our investigation,” Clayton Police Chief Kevin Murphy said in a press conference Thursday.

One thing Murphy said will be looked into is a possible motive, and what was happening leading up to the incident.

“Family and friends, we are talking to, and I want to make it clear that at this point everyone is cooperating with our investigation,” Murphy told reporters.

Murphy said at least one family member was in Schweich’s Clayton home with him when police were called.  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that minutes before the shooting, Schweich had made phone calls to set up an interview to discuss his belief a top Republican party official was spreading false information about his religion.

Clayton Police Chief Kevin Murphy addresses the police on the investigation of the apparent suicide of Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich.

Clayton Police Chief Kevin Murphy addresses the police on the investigation of the apparent suicide of Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich.

“We do a thorough investigation, and that would include all information that we are told that we can develop through the course of our investigation, whatever that might give us,” Murphy said.

The Post-Dispatch reports Schweich believed Republican Party chairman John Hancock, elected last weekend, was saying Schweich is Jewish to hurt him politically in the gubernatorial primary race, as many Republican voters are evangelical Christians. Hancock tells the Dispatch he had once thought Schweich was Jewish but denied saying so in a derogatory manner.

Schweich had reportedly planned to hold a press conference in Jefferson City this week to accuse Hancock of making an anti-Semitic remark and Hancock went to Jefferson City to be at that conference and present his side of the story. That conference never happened.

Schweich, 54, had two children with his wife Kathy.  Governor Jay Nixon (D) will appoint an auditor to fill out Schweich’s 4-year term, which began in January.

Missouri political leaders react to news of Schweich’s death

Missouri auditor and gubernatorial candidate Tom Schweich has died after suffering what sources say has been called a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home in Clayton. His office confirmed the auditor’s passing in an e-mail.

Tom Schweich

Tom Schweich

Schweich, 54, was sworn in for his second term as state auditor in January and later that month announced his candidacy for governor in the 2016 campaign cycle. He and his wife, Kathy, have two children.

The state House, which had adjourned for the week, re-opened to host a prayer service for Schweich and his family. Legislators from both chambers, other elected officials, staff and members of the media were visibly shaken and saddened during the somber gathering.

Reaction to Schweich’s death began coming in from across the world of Missouri public service. In a statement, Governor Jay Nixon (D) called Schweich, “A brilliant, devoted, and accomplished public servant who dedicated his career to making Missouri and the world a better place.”

Nixon continued, “From his courageous work to combat the illegal drug trade abroad in Afghanistan to his tireless efforts to protect the interests of taxpayers here in Missouri, Tom Schweich’s exceptional intellect and unwavering dedication to public service left a legacy that will endure for many years to come. The First Lady and I send our most heartfelt condolences to Tom’s wife Kathy and two children, Emilie and Thomas, Jr.”

Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder (R) wrote,”It is with great sadness that I heard today of the tragic passing of Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich. Tom had a long and unblemished record as a great public servant. As the state’s auditor for the past four years he has served Missouri taxpayers with quiet competence and unswerving dedication. My thoughts and prayers are with his family in this extremely difficult time.”

Senator Claire McCaskill (D) tweeted, “I am very sad and hurt so much for Tom Schweich’s Family. Good man. Dedicated public servant. Hug those you love.”

Senator Roy Blunt tweeted, “Tom Schweich was very smart, very capable, outstanding at his job, and a good friend.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Kathy, their children, and the rest of Tom’s friends and family as they deal with this tragic loss.”

Attorney General Chris Koster (D) said in a statement, “Tom Schweich was a lifelong public servant for our state and country. I am deeply saddened by his sudden loss, and extend my heartfelt sympathy to his family. I ask all Missourians to keep his family in their thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”

Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander said, “Tom Schweich was a devoted public servant that I feel fortunate to have gotten to know as a friend and colleague over the past few years. Whether he was serving as our State Auditor, the U.S. Coordinator for Counternarcotics and Justice Reform in Afghanistan, or working at the State Department, Tom always fought tirelessly for the people he was serving. Anyone who had a conversation with Tom knew how dedicated he was to his service. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Kathy and his children Emilie and Thomas, Jr.”

State Treasurer Clint Zweifel wrote, “”It is with a heavy heart that I send my thoughts and prayers to the Schweich family during this difficult time. Tom served his state and country admirably, and fought strongly for his values. With his passing, Missouri has lost a devoted public servant. He will be missed.”

State Democratic Party Chairman Roy Temple said, “The death of Auditor Tom Schweich is devastating news for his family and all Missourians,” said Roy Temple, Chairman of the Missouri Democratic Party. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Schweich family during this tragic time.”

Missouri Republican Party Chairman John Hancock said he is in, “utter shock,” at the news of Schweich’s passing. “Tom will be remembered as a tenacious, energetic, effective elected official who worked tirelessly on behalf of the citizens of this state and this nation. I ask all Missourians to join me in praying for Tom’s family,” wrote Hancock.

 

 

Teen cancer survivor to be guest at MO legislature’s Inaugural Ball

At least one freshman Missouri state representative will be keeping a campaign promise next week. Representative-elect Randy Pietzman (R-Troy) will bring 14-year-old cancer survivor Maddie Olson of Elsberry to the Inaugural Ball as his guest.

Cancer survivor Maddie Olson, 14 of Elsberry, will be the guest of state Representative-elect Randy Pietzman at the 2015 Inaugural Ball at the Missouri Capitol.  (courtesy; Facebook)

Cancer survivor Maddie Olson, 14 of Elsberry, will be the guest of state Representative-elect Randy Pietzman at the 2015 Inaugural Ball at the Missouri Capitol. (courtesy; Facebook)

Pietzman met Olson during his campaign after she saw one of his signs and reached out to him. In her battle with medulloblastoma, Maddie has undergone surgery to remove a tumor in her brain and chemotherapy to battle a tumor in the center of her spine, and has been cancer free for more than 200 days. Pietzman promised that if he won election he would take her to the 2015 ball at the State Capitol.

In a press release, Pietzman said, “there were many long, difficult days during the campaign when that promise was what motivated me to keep working. I am so excited to be able to make good on my promise by giving her this special day that I know means the world to her.”

Pietzman said Maddie and her family plan to make the trip to Jefferson City the morning of Wednesday, January 7. The day will begin with the swearing-in of Pietzman and the other members of the House at noon in the House Chamber. There will then be events throughout the day ending with the Inaugural Ball that evening.

Follow Maddie on her Facebook page.

Proposed cuts to Missouri’s blind pension halted

The Nixon administration has backed away from cutting benefits to hundreds of Missouri’s blind pension recipients.

cane dayThe Department of Social Services had sent out notices several weeks ago that the benefits would be cut by $33 a month. The payments go to about 3,900 Missourians whose vision is no better than 5/200.  That’s well beyond “legally” blind, which is defined as 20/200.

A state three-cent property tax raises the money for the program.. But Department Finance Director  Patrick Luebbering told us last week that’s not enough to fund the payments. “We have available funds of 31.3 million. Last year on the blind pension program we spent a little bit over $32 million and again in this year we expect to expend around $32 million, which leaves us with a shortfall,” he says.

The department had estimated the department would save almost three-quarters of a million dollars with the cuts.  He had said the full monthly payment of $718 likely would be restored when the next fiscal year starts, July 1 although that determination would be made later after the department saw how much tax money had come in.

A St. Louis Post-Dispatch article had questioned the need for the cut hours before the Governor’s office put out a press release saying Nixon had ordered the department to reverse its plan. Nixon says he’ll ask the legislature next year to add enough money to the budget to keep the payments at current levels.