JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Ethics Commission was within constitutional bounds when imposing nearly $230,000 in fees for ethics violations against a former senator, according to the state’s high court.
Former-Sen. Robin Wright-Jones was appealing the commission’s $229,964 “fine” — which was lowered from the original $271,580 — for ethics violations in relation to failing to accurately report contributions, failing to report expenditures, improperly reporting consulting fees and cash expenditures that violated state law.
On Tuesday, the Missouri Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, affirmed the lower court’s judgment against Wright-Jones’ appeal that the statutes permitting fees to be assessed are constitutional, supported by evidence and are not excessive.
The appeal — argued by Wright-Jones’ attorney, Bernard Edwards Jr., was based on the grounds that the “fines” were excessive and that the commission did not have the authority to impose “fines.”
The court agreed that the Missouri Ethics Commission cannot issue “fines,” but under state law, they can impose fees. Records state that the defense was the only party to use the word “fine” with the ethics commission stating that Wright-Jones was assessed a fee.
The statute states the commission has “the power to seek fees for violations in an amount not greater than one thousand dollars or double the amount involved in the violation.”
And since the fees imposed against Wright-Jones were not double to amount involved, they were within the range permitted by the same statute.
If Wright-Jones met specific criteria, such as not committing any further violations, 90 percent of the fee would have been stayed, leaving her to pay $22,996.
Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at firstname.lastname@example.org.