Sumners files suit against Governor and Board in effort to reclaim seat

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – If there were any thoughts that Tim Sumners would roll over and accept the withdrawing of his appointment to the State Board of Education by Gov. Eric Greitens, think again.

In a suit filed in the Cole County Circuit Court on Tuesday, Sumners is suing the Governor, the members of the state board, and Jennifer Edwards, who was appointed to replace Sumners just hours before a vote attempting to oust the current commissioner, Dr. Margie Vandeven.

Jim Layton now of Tueth Kenney, the former solicitor general for Missouri, is representing Sumners and says that the overall intent is to regain Sumners’ seat.

“We’re asking for a declaratory judgment saying that Sumners is a member of the board, and for an injunction requiring the board to permit him to act as a member of the board,” Layton said.

Layton said that under the statutes, Sumners was given a temporary appointment, which stands as such until the General Assembly convenes. The laws also lay out the procedures on how to remove a member, and Layton says none of the specified steps were taken.

“There’s been no step taken to remove him pursuant to the statutes, so he still occupies the position,” Layton said.

While Sumners’ appointment was valid, the lack of proper steps for removal would make any appointment afterward invalid. During the board’s last meeting, Sumners was allowed to take part in the discussions, however, it was Edwards that cast the vote.

Layton says he intends to file a motion for a temporary restraining order later in the day on Tuesday, and then it’s up to the courts to take it up.

“Today it’s apparent that I switched sides from my years representing Missouri governors. I’ll be testing a governor’s authority to appoint someone to a state board, then, during the appointee’s term, fire him for not doing the governor’s bidding,” Layton tweeted Tuesday afternoon.

The next meeting of the board is scheduled to take place on Friday, December 1. Layton hopes the restraining order will be addressed prior to that meeting.

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.