UM System looks to hire new in-house lobbyist, but rules could prevent some from taking the job

   

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The University of Missouri continues pushing forward in their effort to rebuild their brand.

Just this summer, the university laid off a number of staff members in an effort to solve some of the financial troubles still burdening the campus following the events of November 2015. Some of the cuts made during those layoffs were the chief spokesman, chief lobbyist and vice president who managed both positions.

Vice President of University Relations Steve Knorr, Director of Government Relations Marty Oetting, and Chief Communications Officer John Fougere were all let go in June, leaving the university without a lobbyist, as Knorr and Letting handled most of the lobbying duties in Jefferson City.

Roughly a month later, the university began looking to hire an in-house lobbyist, someone who could build relationships with state and federal officials in order to “advance the strategic objectives and operational goals of the University of Missouri System and its four campuses.”

According to the Columbia Daily Tribune, when asked why the university fired people from a job they now want to fill with a payroll employee, UM System spokesman Christian Basi wrote that the previous job of leading University Relations required a combination of skills, in communications and government relations, but that the new job “is strictly focused on government relations.”

The current hiring rumors list the three finalists for the Mizzou contract as Kelly Gillespie, David Pearce and Jefferson Davis.

Davis worked for former Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and served on the Missouri Public Service Commission, while Gillespie works for the Missouri Biotechnology Association as the President and CEO. Pearce is a former state senator, replaced by current Sen. Denny Hoskins.

But what is interesting is a particular rule and regulation regarding personnel, which prohibits the University from hiring an elected or appointed statewide official for less than two years after leaving office.

Chapter 320: Employment and Termination (320.115 Hiring of Curators, Legislators, and Statewide Officials, UM Board Minutes, 7-22-2005)

“No member of the Missouri General Assembly, no elected or appointed statewide official of the State of Missouri and no member of the Board of Curators of the University of Missouri shall be employed by the University, either full-time or part-time, during his or her service in such elected or appointed office or for two (2) years after the cessation of his or her service in such elected or appointed office. The foregoing restriction or limitation shall not be applicable to any individual who was previously in the employment of the University for a period of not less than three years, prior to assuming his or her position as Curator, member of the General Assembly, or elected or appointed statewide official. No member of the Board of Curators of the University of Missouri shall enter into any contract to provide goods or services under contract with the University of Missouri during his or her service in such office, or for two (2) years after the cessation of his or her service in such office; provided, however, that such prohibition shall not apply if the contract is entered into in conformity with the University’s rules and regulations pertaining to acquisition of goods or services, the University’s competitive bidding processes, if applicable, and after compliance with all applicable conflict of interest statutes and policies.”

As such, Pearce would not be a viable candidate for the position simply because of a 2005 regulation.

Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email benjamin@themissouritimes.com or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.