JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri Ethics Commission says it will investigate whether state Sen. Kurt Schaefer pressured the University of Missouri to prevent a faculty member from opposing him in the Republican race for state attorney general.
James Klahr, executive director of the commission, said last week that the body does not have the resources or authority to investigate the complaint filed against Schaefer, a Columbia Republican, by the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust. On Thursday, Klahr said in a letter to the foundation that a complaint resubmitted on Tuesday contained compelling legal arguments and that the commission will take up the case.
The nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., says Schaefer used his position as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee to pressure former University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe and Board of Curators member David Steelman to change the university’s policy on faculty leave to make it difficult for Josh Hawley, an associate law professor, to run against him.
The complaint cites an email written Jan. 19 by Wolfe that includes a section titled “Political Activities and Pressure from Senator Kurt Schaefer.”
“Kurt Schaefer had several meetings with me pressuring me to take away Josh Hawley’s right to run for Attorney General by taking away an employee’s right to ask for an unpaid leave of absence when running for public office,” Wolfe wrote.
Schaefer denies the allegation and said Thursday in a text to The Columbia Daily Tribune (https://bit.ly/1TMw5qj ) that the complaint is political distraction from Hawley’s supporters.
Hawley applied for a year of unpaid leave in May 2015 and has been on leave since Sept. 1 to campaign.
In the complaint resubmitted on Tuesday, the foundation argued that the commission was required by law to investigate the allegations and had investigated similar complaints in the past.
The alleged offenses range from misdemeanor official misconduct to bribery related to programs receiving federal funds, an offense that can trigger a fine or prison sentence of up to 10 years.
This story has been corrected to show that the body investigating the complaint is the Missouri Ethics Commission, not the Missouri Ethics Investigation.
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