Missouri Governor Eric Greitens doesn’t have to talk to reporters. Nor is he required to speak with members of a special Missouri House committee investigating a long list of alleged misdeeds.
But the state’s top elected official owes it to all Missourians to answer questions under oath about his alleged crimes and assorted indiscretions.
Greitens holds the dubious distinction of being the first sitting governor in state history to be indicted. He hasn’t faced reporters’ questions in weeks.
The governor is constitutionally protected from answering questions in court or other legal proceedings. But should a man elected by the people remain silent amid such serious accusations?
Greitens’ refusal to respond to questions shortly after prosecutors in St. Louis dropped a felony invasion of privacy charge against him illustrates a perpetual lack of leadership and transparency.
He did say in a statement that he was a changed man. If that is true, Governor Greitens, show us. Testify under oath if lawmakers introduce articles of impeachment during a special legislative session.
The governor’s lawyers have not said definitively whether Greitens would testify, pointing to a criminal complaint that’s still pending as a complicating factor.
On Friday, the Cole County prosecutor declined to file charges against Greitens for allegedly lying to the state’s ethics commission. But there are still other legal issues entangling the governor, including a felony charge of computer tampering and a lawsuit alleging Greitens and staffers violated the state Sunshine Law with the use of the text-destroying app Confide.
The veil of secrecy shrouding Greitens extends to his allies and advisers. On Thursday, the House committee filed a petition in court seeking to compel the governor’s campaign and nonprofit to turn over records. The committee is probing whether Greitens’ 2016 campaign used so-called “shell companies” to conceal the identity of donors.
Naturally, both the campaign and A New Missouri, a nonprofit founded by Greitens’ team, refused.
Lawmakers have repeatedly asked the governor to tell his side of the story under oath. One, Republican Rep. Jay Barnes, has practically begged Greitens to testify.
A defiant Greitens has vowed to fight to stay in office. Again, that his certainly his right. But good government is open government.
And if Greitens wants to keep his job, he simply cannot remain silent. The voters who elected him to Missouri’s top post deserve answers about his conduct.
According to the state constitution, “any offense involving moral turpitude or oppression in office” can lead to impeachment. And the House committee investigation already has turned up evidence of multiple impeachable offenses.
If accusations of blackmail, sexual coercion and physical violence during a 2015 extramarital affair become part of the grounds for impeachment, the governor’s legal team says the woman at the center of that scandal should testify in the open and face cross-examination. So should you, Governor Greitens. Missourians are waiting.