The Senate committee looking into the decision to delay last spring’s release of information on E. coli contamination at the Lake of the Ozarks isn’t quite finished with its effort to get to the bottom of the withholding of data. Senator Brad Lager (R-Savannah), Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee, still hopes to hear from past or present Department of Natural Resources employees who could add to what is publicly known.
“The cooperation has been absolutely disappointing,” said Lager. “The Department has done everything possible to try to derail this. They’ve done everything possible to try to mislead us.”
The panel has heard from Joe Bindbeutal, the former Deputy Director of DNR, who fell on his sword in telling Senators the decision to withhold information was his. But Lager still wants to question DNR’s former Communications Director Susanne Medley who has, so far, resisted requests to appear. It is conceivable that she would be compelled to appear.
“It’s too early to tell,” said Lager. “We will be requesting Miss Medley to come. If she chooses not to we’ll have to decide at that point what tools we’ll use to get those questions answered.”
Might this mean she would be subpoenaed?
“Let’s just say that we are yet to come to a consensus among the leadership in the Senate that that is the course we need to take,” said Lager.
It is rare, but not unprecedented, for a legislative committee to compel an individual to appear for a hearing. The last time a Senate committee used subpoena power to compel someone to appear was during a 1991 investigation into the sale of surplus property. At that time, then-Senator Jay Nixon chaired the committee that issued the subpoenas.