The Buzz

Missouri speaker set ups second committee to look at workplace hostility issues in Ag Department

A few days after assigning a House oversight committee to probe workplace hostility issues in two state agencies, House Speaker Tim Jones on Tuesday set up a second committee to also look into the Agriculture Department.

“As this story has continued to evolve in the press, I have heard from many Missourians who are deeply concerned about allegations made against the former department director,” Jones said in a statement Tuesday.

“Rather than make a rush to judgment on this case, it is imperative that we do a comprehensive review of the way the department has been run and the way its employees have been treated.”

Last week, Jones asked state Rep. Jay Barnes to look into workplace hostility issues in the Ag and Labor and Industrial Relations departments through Barnes’ Government Oversight and Accountability Committee.

The newly formed Bipartisan Investigatory Committee on State Department Workplace Abuse established on Tuesday will look more deeply into the Ag Department because allegations stemming from that agency are thought to be more serious, a Jones aide said.

State Rep. Casey Guernsey, a Bethany Republican, will chair the Bipartisan Investigatory Committee, Jones said.

“Our goal is to root out any abusive behaviors,” Jones said.

Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, replaced Ag Department director Jon Hagler last month.

Guernsey said he’d heard enough to conclude that inappropriate behaviors “were commonplace” within the agency under Hagler.

“In addition to the already reported allegations, I have received word of other alleged improprieties that warrant a full investigation,” Guernsey said.