Democrats allege Gov. Eric Greitens broke state law when he removed Missouri Board of Education member Melissa Gelner from office earlier this year.
Greitens has been attempting for months to appoint enough people to the state school board to oust Missouri Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven. He’s believed to be looking at replacing Vandeven with charter school advocate Kenneth Zeff.
He nominated Gelner, of Springfield, in August, but withdrew her nomination a month later. She said at the time she lost the job because she refused to go along with the plan to fire Vandeven.
Democrats argue that under state law, Greitens was required to a provide Gelner written notice and a hearing on charges of malfeasance before withdrawing her nomination.
“State law says that once a board member takes office, the governor can’t remove him or her without cause and due process,” House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, a Kansas City Democrat, said in a statement. “But as he has proven time and again, Greitens knows little about state law and cares less.”
Greitens did not respond to a request for comment. He’s in Texas on Wednesday attending a meeting of the Republican Governors Association.
Gelner was sworn in as a member of the board of education on Aug. 15. But she would have still needed to be formally confirmed by the Missouri Senate when it returned to the Capitol in January for the 2018 legislative session.
Democrats cited a 1977 legal opinion by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, a Republican, that said the governor can’t unilaterally withdraw the nomination of someone he appointed while the Senate is not in session and who has already been sworn into office.
This week another of Greitens’ appointments to the board, John T. “Tim” Sumners, said that when he was appointed by the governor, “it was pretty well understood that one of our jobs would be to replace the current commissioner.”
Sumners said he can’t support ousting Vandeven at this time, stoking speculation that Greitens may try to replace him on the board as well.
The board is scheduled to gather next week for a closed meeting to discuss hiring and firing in the state’s education department.