A special legislative committee is being assembled to investigate how former state agriculture director Jon Hagler ran the agriculture department. The committee chairman admits he has some opinions of his own.
House Speaker Tim Jones says he has convened the committee because of workplace abuse and intimidation allegations made against Hagler, who was replaced a month ago. Jones calls it the Bipartisan Investigatory Committee on State Department Workplace Abuse, a title that could lead to investigations beyond the agriculture department.
Committee chairman Casey Guernsey of Bethany admits he has some preconceived ideas about Hagler’s adminsitration of the department, based on his six years as a rural legislator. “I’ve been concerned about that for a while,” he says, “especially how he has handled specific groups that are outside the department that are industry groups.”
The head of the Missouri Cattleman’s Association says Hagler threatened him once. Hagler says the incident was a misunderstanding. He says he set high standards for employees in the department but he denies abusing them–although Guernsey believes “inappropriate behaviors were commonplace within the department and a direct manifestation” of Hagler’s leadership style.
Agriculture is not the only Nixon administration department facing accusations of hostile working conditions or discrimination. The former director of the Division of Employment Security, Gracia Backer, says she got the axe last Spring for complaining about discrimination against older employees and women.
Guernsey says he’d look into that issue, too, if it was up to him. But right now, Agriculture is the focus.