The ethics investigation that targeted Missouri House Speaker Dean Plocher, R-Des Peres, is officially over.

He said he’s been “exonerated” by the House Ethics Committee, which dismissed an ethics complaint against him on Monday by a 7-2 vote. He’d been accused of seeking an outside company he had connections with — without going through the normal bidding process — to handle constituent information and of retaliating against House staffers who complained about it. He was also accused of accepting reimbursements on travel that had already been paid for by his campaign.

Plocher told reporters at the State Capitol after the vote that like Washington D.C., Jefferson City also has a political swamp.

“We now know that it’s the bureaucrats in the House that attempted a coup by trying to target the Speaker’s office hoping to displace and overthrow duly elected officials for control of the legislature and giving great influence to the lobbyists and special interests,” he said.

Plocher compared his ordeal to that of former President Donald Trump.

“I’m being accused of a lot of things. I was accused of a lot of things, a lot of falsities, a lot of lies, a lot of inferences and innuendos. They were just not true,” he said. “You know, every time I turn on the news, I see Donald Trump and wonder how much political effort is being put into him to bring him down and I kind of felt like that, too. I felt like there was a lot of politics at play trying to take me down, and they were lies.”

Rep. Brian Seitz, R-Branson, defended the dismissal of the ethics complaint, calling it “much to do about nothing.”

“The facts were covered up by emotion as we wasted time – the Ethics committee wasted time – week after week, month after month,” Seitz said. “What was once a committee hearing became an inquisition. It went from an inquisition to a witch hunt.”

Ethics Committee chair Hannah Kelly, R-Mountain Grove, disagrees. In a written statement she said that she’s “appalled” that her colleagues “turned a blind eye to the obstruction, intimidation, and retaliation” uncovered during the committee’s investigation.

Rep. Hannah Kelly, R-Mountain Grove (Property of Missourinet)

Rep. Hannah Kelly, R-Mountain Grove (Property of Missourinet)

“It is deeply concerning that a member of our leadership has knowingly obstructed a fair and transparent process to serve their own political interests and shield themselves from the consequences of their actions,” Kelly’s statement reads in part. “The Speaker’s obstruction of the ethics investigation, coupled with his dishonesty and intimidation tactics, should concern every member of the House. The attempt to manipulate and cover up an ethics investigation reveals a troubling disregard for accountability and the rule of law. It saddens me to see members of this chamber willingly ignore shared concerns to prevent the growth of a culture of fear.”

The dismissal of the ethics complaint has raised questions as to whether members of the Missouri House staff that took part in the complaint or assisted in the investigation would be fired. During a press conference Tuesday on an initiative petition bill, Plocher was repeatedly asked if he intended to retaliate against them. He responded each time that he had been exonerated and that he was moving forward with the business of the House as the legislative session winds down.

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