State Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, is concerned Governor Eric Greitens could be replacing Missouri Veterans Commission members like he did to the State Board of Education. An independent investigation finding “serious problems” at the St. Louis veterans home has led to Greitens calling for the removal of the commission’s executive director, Larry Kay, and the home’s administrator, Rolando Carter.
“This is very much like what happened at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education where the governor kept replacing members of that commission until he got a group willing to fire the person at the helm,” says Schupp. “This is a pattern of behavior we’re seeing with the governor, whether it’s with the veterans or education. These are pretty critical groups that I care deeply about. The idea that the governor is going to come in and make decisions based on what he wants an outcome to be is very concerning to me.”
On Monday, Greitens also announced that he has replaced five of the commissioners. The nine-member commission could decide as early as this week whether to fire Kay and Carter. Schupp does not think that gives members, especially the new ones, adequate time to make a fair judgement call.
“Let’s make sure we know what we’re talking about,” says Schupp.
The difference between the veterans and education issues is people came out in droves to back former Missouri Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven. The governor worked for months to appoint members to the board that would fire Vandeven. Four brand new members were among the majority who voted in favor of removing her as the education chief.
Kay, on the other hand, has been at the center of a legal battle and accusations about inappropriate treatment of workers, including a gender and age discrimination lawsuit racking up millions that Missourians are paying for. Schupp, a member of the commission, does support Greitens’ call to remove Kay but is undecided about the St. Louis veterans home administrator.
Malnutrition, bed sores, and medications not being given on time were among the problems found in the investigation that Greitens called for of the facility. Schupp says the findings don’t necessarily take into consideration that people have minds of their own.
“Sometimes things happen where a person refuses to take his medication, refuses to allow you to change his clothing or refuses to drink water even though you’re trying to make it available,” says Schupp. “There are some concerns about people getting medication in a timely fashion, people sitting in soiled clothing, people not having eaten what they were supposed to eat, their nutrition levels or their hydration levels.”
She wants the full picture and doesn’t want to jump to conclusions based on the summary. Schupp has requested the full report of the investigation.
Her pursuit for answers also included an unannounced visit last week to the veterans home. Schupp, along with other legislators, a retired hospital administrator and a nursing home leader, had a pleasant visit with Carter. She acknowledges that they only received about a two hour representation of the facility but felt like they walked away with a positive experience overall.
“I don’t have a relationship with Rolando Carter,” says Schupp. “I have met him now for two hours but does his firing result in a positive change at the veterans home or is he working to put into place positive changes that will help support our veterans? I want to know and feel comfortable with the answer to that question before I move forward and support what the governor has asked for, which is his firing.”
The latest investigation of the veterans home was conducted by the private sector firm Harmony Healthcare International