Governor Eric Greitens, R, could replace Missouri Board of Education members he’s appointed who don’t support his reported plan to remove Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven. Missouri School Boards’ Association Executive Director Melissa Randol tells Missourinet the panel does not appear to have the five votes required to terminate the commissioner during Tuesday’s closed meeting.
“They’ve been put in a terrible position. We’re anxious to work with them. I think that they have a heart for children but it takes a while to understand the scope and the magnitude and how complex the state board’s position is,” says Randol.
She says the commissioner has been making great progress with the state board and with Missouri’s school districts to move forward. Randol says the governor is going against his campaign to end cronyism in state government.
“That’s a little bit perplexing to us as we watch this decision when you would work to appoint individuals to make a personnel decision to replace a highly competent individual with somebody that appears to be an acquaintance of the governor’s or a friend of the governor’s from out of state that really has no experience in education,” says Randol.
Democrat Joe Driskill suddenly resigned from the board earlier this month – citing work obligations. Driskill was appointed in 2016 by then-Governor Jay Nixon to serve in a newly-created state position of military advocate. Whether there was pressure to resign is unknown.
Some legislators in both parties have come out in support of keeping Vandeven, including Farmington Republican State Sen. Gary Romine, Republican State Reps. Doug Wood of Versailles, Kathy Swan of Cape Girardeau and Lyle Rowland of Cedarcreek.
Missouri House Minority Floor Leader Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, contends that removing an appointee from their post is illegal. She refers to RSMo. 161.022.2, a statute governing the removal of State Board of Education members.
“In his sinister scheme to politicize and control public education, there is nothing Eric Greitens won’t do, including break the law,” says McCann Beatty. “State law says that once a board member takes office, the governor can’t remove him or her without cause and due process. But as he has proven time and again, Greitens knows little about state law and cares less.”
McCann Beatty goes on to say that Greitens violated the law by removing a new sworn-in board member in September without providing the written notice and hearing on charges the law requires. She says the due process protections of RSMo. 161.022.2 applied as the law provides no exclusion for board members who have yet to be confirmed.
Greitens spokesman Parker Briden tells a Kansas City Star reporter that McCann Beatty’s comments are “nothing more than a political stunt.” He says State Board of Education members are appointed state officials who are subject to the governor’s removal.
“The Missouri Constitution and state law clearly give Governor Greitens the power to withdraw recess appointments to the State Board of Education at any point prior to the confirmation vote in the Senate,” says Briden.
He goes on to say that Article IV, Section 17 of the Missouri Constitution and Section 106.010 of Missouri’s Revised Statutes make it clear that members of the State Board of Education are appointed state officials subject to the Governor’s removal.
McCann Beatty cites “a well-established rule of statutory construction.”
“While RSMo. 106.010 cited by the governor grants a general power to remove appointed officials, it is trumped by RSMo. 161.022.2, which specifically prohibits the governor from removing a state school board member without cause or due process,” she said. “In addition, the governor’s authority under Article IV, Section 17 to remove most state department heads at his pleasure is irrelevant to the present situation since a state school board member is not a department head,” says McCann Beatty.
Vandeven was appointed by the Missouri Board of Education. She has served in her role since 2015. Tuesday’s meeting is at 10 a.m. at the Jefferson State Office Building in Jefferson City.