JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Department of Agriculture is under fire after allegations of a “hostile work environment” appear to have led to the departure of director Jon Hagler.
Last week, yet another Department employee filed a complaint against both the Department and the director. Beth Ewers, the agency’s associate director of meat and poultry inspection, filed a complaint citing an environment of “hostility, disrespect, intimidation and fear.”
Gov. Jay Nixon announced Hagler’s resignation last Friday in a brief statement that did not address the complaints. Nixon’s office did not respond to requests for comment. The Department of Agriculture, which was approached by The Missouri Times staff on multiple occasions, also did not respond to requests for a comment.
Following Hagler’s departure, Barry Aycock, CEO of AgXplore International Inc., a major Democratic fundraiser and supporter, was offered the position of Director of the Department of Agriculture, The Missouri Times confirmed.
“While I was honored that the governor entrusted me to run the department of agriculture, this is not the right time for me and my family,” Aycock says. “I am fully committed to supporting this administration and helping elect Democrats in 2014.”
Harry Bozoian, former deputy director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, will serve as the interim director of the department.
Hagler’s departure after complains from female employees is not a first for the DOA. Director Fred Ferrell resigned during Feb. 2007 under then-Gov. Matt Blunt after sexual harassment charges were levied against him. House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, said “serious questions,” had been raised about the Department’s work environment.
“I would just hope that the media would give as much scrutiny to this situation as they did to Governor Blunt back in 2006 or 2007,” Jones says. “Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, when serious allegations are made, there needs to be scrutiny brought to bear, especially considering that the Department of Agriculture is one of our most important departments.”
Female lawmakers speak out
Following the announcement, female lawmakers suggested that perhaps gender equity was a larger problem on display.
“Working conditions would improve if there was more gender equity in state government,” Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis City, says. “As someone who has both seen and firsthand experienced how women can be treated unfairly in state government, I firmly believe we need more women across the board for environments to improve.”
Rep. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, says more women should be encouraged to run for office or seek higher roles in administrations.
“Women are a little bit more than 50 percent of the population here in Missouri,” Schupp says. “If we recognized that, if we encouraged women to seek that level of representation, I think some of these issues could be avoided. More importantly, our government needs to ensure that, whether you’re male or female, your environment is based on your work and effective leadership.”