Tuesday’s election here was supervised by the four members of the city’s governor-appointed Kansas City Election Board.
You may be shocked to learn that the terms for two members expired eight years ago.
An isolated case? No. According to a new state auditor’s report, at the end of Jay Nixon’s term as governor, 70 percent of the governor-controlled seats on the state’s boards and commissions were either vacant or filled — legally — by holdovers with expired terms.
Some vacancies were on low-profile boards that have little impact on the lives of Missourians. But other important boards — the State Lottery Commission, the Missouri Development Finance Board, the State Highways and Transportation Commission — reported vacancies or members serving expired terms.
Never miss a local story.
It’s unacceptable. How did it happen?
▪ Nixon, a Democrat, and his staff scandalously paid far too little attention to the lengthy list of vacancies and expired terms.
Nixon supporters blame a balky confirmation process. They should have complained loudly at the time and tried to fix it.
▪ Yes, the state Senate, controlled by Republicans, should have worked harder to confirm nominees in a timely manner. And senators should have refrained from attempting to influence the governor’s selections for some important seats, improperly interjecting politics into what should be merit-based appointments.
▪ Gov. Eric Greitens has criticized the bloated morass of boards and commissions but also has capitalized on this flawed system. We’ve pointed out that a Greitens nominee, sworn in to the police board a few hours before the vote, essentially picked Kansas City’s new chief of police.
But two other police board members were also serving past their terms’ expiration dates when they voted for the new chief.
Leaving more than 1,100 seats vacant or on expired terms must not become standard practice in the state. Nixon’s failure to fill available seats will change Missouri. Greitens now has the opportunity to control dozens of boards and commissions that supervise the ways Missourians work, learn, travel and battle illness.
And that influence could extend for years beyond Greitens’ time in office. Some board members can now serve what could be, essentially, lifetime appointments.
No governor should have that authority.
To his credit, Greitens has wisely created a task force that has been directed to review and ultimately eliminate or consolidate some of Missouri’s boards and commissions. There are far too many state boards — roughly 220 at last count. Some can be eliminated, their tasks taken on by existing state agencies.
The full state Senate need not confirm every member of every board in the state. There are simply too many nominees. A bipartisan select committee, meeting weekly, might be given that task.
And allowing board members to serve indefinitely must stop. If a governor wants to retain a member, let the appointee go through a new review and confirmation process.
If a governor fails to make timely appointments, the state Senate — or the courts — should be allowed to intervene.
These are not minor concerns. The safety and welfare of Missourians are threatened by a broken process that must be fixed.