As Missouri lawmakers prepare for the start of the 2016 session on Wednesday, many have their eyes set on wrathful actions against two women.
One is Melissa Click, the University of Missouri assistant communications professor who created an ugly scene while trying to keep journalists away from student protestors during the emotional demonstrations in November that resulted in the resignation of university system President Tim Wolfe.
More than 100 state House members and 18 senators have signed a letter to the University of Missouri Board of Curators, demanding that Click be fired.
“As a professional representing our university, Click failed to meet the obligation she has to her supervisors, fellow professors, university students, and the taxpayers of Missouri,” the letter said.
Click was unprofessional and wrong. She called for “some muscle” to help her confront one journalist, while ignoring the fact that the university quad, where the protests were ongoing, is a public space and therefore open to the media and others.
Maybe she should be fired. Or maybe the greater body of her work argues in favor of her remaining on the faculty. I really don’t know. Neither do most of the legislators who signed the letter.
But the purpose of the letter isn’t just to get Click fired. It is to tell the University of Missouri system that the state legislature is prepared to meddle in personnel matters and other internal affairs that shouldn’t be the jurisdiction of politicians.
And the not-so-implicit threat is always this: We fund you, so do what we say.
The second woman to have incurred legislative ire is Mary Kogut, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.
Along with James Miller, owner of Pathology Services, Inc., of Brentwood, Mo., Kogut ignored subpoenas to produce documents and witnesses for a state Senate committee initiated over the summer to investigate Planned Parenthood.
Committee chairman Sen. Kurt Schaefer, a Republican from Columbia, and other GOP members have recommended the full Senate issue sanctions against the two.
The committee was much more a witch hunt than a fact-finding venture. Kogut undoubtedly recognized that she was being called to Jefferson City to be berated and entrapped. Miller, who actually did testify before a similar House committee, opted out of a repeat performance.
Planned Parenthood has questioned the committee’s validity and subpoena power and said the documents requested would present a violation of patient privacy.
If the full Senate approved sanctions, Kogut and Miller could face up to 10 days in jail, a $300 fine, or both. Given the ugly “gotcha” atmosphere of the committee, those might actually be preferable to an appearance. But the actual sanctions are less likely than a legal fight over whether they could be applied.
In any case, lawmakers’ actions this week have signaled that Planned Parenthood and the University of Missouri system might be in for a long, difficult legislative session.