MEC questioning authority on two Clean Missouri changes related to lawmakers

   

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Ethics Commission has reached out to the state’s attorney general’s office to know just what their authority is regarding recently passed ethics changes.

The commission charged with overseeing Missouri’s ethical standards has reached out to the state’s top legal enforcement office for an advisory opinion regarding voter-approved Amendment 1, the so-called Clean Missouri Amendment.

The question being posed to the attorney general’s office is whether or not the Missouri Ethics Commission has the authority to accept complaints and issue advisory opinions regarding the two constitutional changes related to the General Assembly.

Amendment 1 proved that “no person serving as a member of or employed by the General Assembly shall act or serve as a paid lobbyist, register as a paid lobbyist, or solicit prospective employers or clients to represent as a paid lobbyist during the time of such service until the expiration of two calendar years after the conclusion of the session of the general assembly in which the member or employee last served…”

It also contains the following prohibition: “No person serving as a member of employed by the General Assembly shall accept directly or indirectly a gift of any tangible item, service, or thing of value from any paid lobbyist or lobbyist principal in excess of five dollars per occurrence.”

The commission unanimously voted to ask the attorney general’s office, “if Section 105.957.1(6), RSMo, authorizes the Missouri Ethics Commission to accept complaints regarding alleged violation of these provisions and to issue advisory opinions pertaining to these provisions.”

At last week’s meeting, the Missouri Ethics Commission also added a notice to a previous advisory opinion on an executive order signed by then-Gov. Eric Greitens. The commission noted that the lobbyist gift ban did include informational publications only while the executive order was in effect.

Executive Order 17-02 prohibited all executive branch employees from taking lobbyist gifts. The ban was in effect from January 9, 2017, until November 20, 2018, when Gov. Mike Parson revised the order.

The January 2018 advisory opinion notes that some informational publications fall within the definition of “gifts.” That notice now attached to the opinion, notes that it is only limited to the time frame Greitens’ executive order was in effect — January 9, 2017 through November 20, 2018.  

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 alisha@themissouritimes.com.