Prosecutor: Cass County clerk should be removed for nepotism

The Cass County prosecutor filed a legal action Wednesday seeking to remove County Clerk Janet Burlingame from office for allegedly violating state nepotism rules.

The petition filed by Prosecutor Teresa Hensley alleges that Burlingame paid her husband and son to do work for her office from 2003, when she became clerk, until April 2010.

“The Missouri Constitution prohibits acts of nepotism by elected officials and the Missouri Constitution states that you forfeit your office,” Hensley said in a written statement announcing the action.

Burlingame was in her office Wednesday afternoon, according to an employee, but she did not return a reporter’s call seeking comment.

According to court documents filed Wednesday, Burlingame hired her husband and son as election workers. Her husband was paid $5,577 and her son received $1,670, according to the court documents.

Hensley’s action poses a legal question that has never been addressed by the Missouri Supreme Court.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster’s office earlier said that the law did not provide for removal of an office holder for conduct during a previous term. None of the work occurred since Burlingame began her most recent term in office in January 2011.

However, Hensley argues in Wednesday’s petition that although the Missouri Supreme Court has never addressed the issue directly, “substantial evidence” supports the concept that an officeholder can be removed from a current term for conduct that occurred in a previous term.

Although Burlingame has been re-elected, she has held the same position continuously with the same duties, and thus her tenure has been a “continuous service rather than a new office,” the petition notes.