We’ve had an extraordinary and rather unpleasant situation here in Missouri the last few years. Our governor, Matt Blunt, and our State Attorney General Jay Nixon have not seen eye to eye on many issues, and almost any event associated with our state ends up being about the two of them.
Leaving aside the fact that both will face each other for election to governor next year, there are fundamental differences between the two men, which has left Jay Nixon spending a great deal of his time countering the efforts of our governor. Not surprising: Matt Blunt is the new breed of Republican that is backing away from the fundamentalists, favoring a form of social Darwinism that has even the most hidebound Republican going: eh, now, wait a sec.
I’ve written about the Katy Trail bridge and the Taum Sauk Dam break, but the recent fooflah literally boggles the mind.
Several months back, a woman who worked in the Department of Agriculture, Heather Elder, complained to the Governor’s office about the sexual harassment and discrimination she had suffered from the head of the department, Fred Ferrell. She accused Ferrell of hugging her, touching her inappropriately, telling her she should participate in a wet t-shirt contest, telling others that women are ‘show dogs’, and the only reason to hire such is because of our looks, and so on.
However, Ferrell is a friend of Big Agriculture, working hand in hand with the ‘new’ head of DNR, Doyle Childers, to roll back many of the environmental protections in place in our state so that large agricultural interests don’t have to worry about the smell of their big hog farms, or how much crap they dump into our rivers and streams.
When the complaint was received, Blunt took the unprecedented and illegal act of having the State Patrol investigate the allegations. He then used the DNR’s legal staff to negotiate a settlement with Elder that included what amounted to a slap on the wrist for Ferrell (sensitivity training, 10,000 fine, which he hasn’t paid), and a payoff and ordered cover up with Elder. The amount of money of the pay off was 70,000 dollars, paid from the Department of Agriculture’s equipment fund.
This all blew up last week when Elder rejected the offer and took the issue to the Attorney General’s office after the Missouri Human Rights Commission issued her a right-to-sue letter. Jay Nixon has now filed a suit on her behalf. The reason Elder refused the offer? She refused to let this be swept under the table, itself an act that is also illegal based on the Sunshine Act.
Caught not only misusing the state Patrol, misusing Agricultural department funds, misusing DNR resources, and protecting a man who isn’t fit to slop the corporate pigs he tried to protect, Blunt did the only thing he could: he tried to blame Nixon. How? By saying that he, Blunt, had to manage on his own since Nixon wouldn’t get involved in the initial negotiations.
As the *opinion piece in the conservative publication News-Leader, based in that strongest of Republican holds, Springfield, demonstrated: no one is buying any of this crap:
Blunt faces a growing cacophony of criticism for his mishandling of the sexual harassment and demeaning behavior of Ferrell, his former director of the Department of Agriculture. His initial reaction? Deflect some of the blame to Nixon for not getting involved in the case earlier.
The problem with that is Nixon didn’t hire a lecherous old man to join his cabinet. Blunt did.
Nixon didn’t respond to a serious allegation of sexual harassment by a female state worker by ordering an illegal Missouri Highway Patrol investigation. Blunt did.
Nixon didn’t ignore a report that any reasonable thinking person would realize displayed the sort of behavior by Ferrell that would disqualify him from any position of management in today’s society, let alone a position atop a state agency. Blunt did.
The governor told the News-Leader he believes in second chances, but apparently that lofty idea only applies to cabinet members and not their victims.
This act will kill any of Blunt’s chances for re-election, though with his growing friendship with Mitt Romney, he may not mind. Expect him to head toward a shot at the nationals, and if he does, run, run to your polls and answer with a resounding, “No!”
I am serious when I write that Blunt has done an amazing amount of damage in this state in his zeal to provide a ‘comfortable’ support system for big business. Kicked 300,000 children, disabled, and elderly off of Medicare; helped change water laws until the EPA brought all of that to a screeching halt; turned the Taum Sauk event into a political opportunity; brought in incompetent Republican cronies to head important departments; trying to sell off the fund that enable poor folks to go to school; put absurd restrictions on the universities for what they can do with the money set aside for capital improvements with this money.
This voters of this state made a terrible mistake when they put Blunt in as governor. Like the Ferrell case, that’s another thing that can’t be blamed on Jay Nixon–we did it all by ourselves.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch interviewed the Republican women state representatives, and the majority of the answers are understandable, though a little disappointing. Most condemned Ferrel’s behavior (or pleaded the 5th), but were reserved on Blunt’s role. However, there was one….
One of the Republican legislators interviewed said she hadn’t reviewed the case; she said similar sexual harassment claims stem from misunderstandings.
Rep. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, said she’s worked around men long enough to know that two women can often interpret the same behavior differently.
“I work in a man’s world and sometimes men show encouragement by hugging,” she said. “Is that sexual harassment or is that encouragement? In my mind, it’s encouragement.”
* via Black River News.