November 15, 2007
Jefferson City, Mo. — A former superintendent of the Missouri State Highway Patrol will lead an independent special investigative team to look into multiple allegations received by the Attorney General’s Office that the Governor’s Office and the Office of Administration are not in compliance with Missouri’s records retention and Sunshine laws. Attorney General Jay Nixon today appointed Col. C.E. “Mel” Fisher to head up the special investigative team and appointed retired Webster County Associate Circuit Judge Daniel Max Knust (Ca-NOOSE) to serve as special counsel.
“Openness goes to the core of public trust in government and therefore these reports must be investigated,” Nixon said. “Our objective is to see that the rule of law and the public’s trust is upheld, and to see that it is upheld in such a way that there is no appearance of political motivation. Col. Fisher’s team has impeccable credentials in Missouri law enforcement. This group of committed public servants will lead an independent investigation to look into these allegations and, if necessary, take appropriate action.”
Nixon said the investigative team would focus on allegations made to his office by more than one source that the Office of the Governor and the Office of Administration are not in full compliance with the Sunshine Law and other record retention policies. Col. Fisher will be provided with the resources he needs in order to carry out the investigation, although the Attorney General’s Office will not provide additional direction once the investigation has begun, Nixon said. The Attorney General’s Office will not receive any information about the findings of the investigation until it is complete and the report is made public.
“Serious questions have been raised about how and if documents were retained, and if there was compliance with the Sunshine Law,” Col. Fisher said. “Missourians deserve to know the answers to those questions, and the investigative team will be trying to determine those answers to ensure that the law is upheld. In order for this investigation to serve its true purpose, we must conduct it without any influence from outside political interests. That’s exactly what we intend to do.”
The investigation will be limited both in scope and duration, with an expected completion date of Jan. 15, 2008 unless an extension is granted for good cause. Upon completion of the investigation, the team will take any further action it deems appropriate. The investigative team’s report will be made public at the completion of the process.
“We expect that the Governor will cooperate fully with this special investigative team and instruct all members of his Administration to do the same,” Nixon said.
Col. Fisher was appointed superintendent of the Highway Patrol in 1989 by Gov. John Ashcroft and served in that position until he retired from the patrol in 1993 after 35 years of service. In 1998, he was named executive director of the Missouri Gaming Commission after serving first as the commission’s deputy director of enforcement and then as acting executive director. He retired from that position in 2000.
Col. Fisher will be assisted by Rick Wilhoit, a 27-year veteran of the Highway Patrol, also retired, who worked as a lieutenant in the Gaming and Professional Standards divisions. Judge Knust served on the bench as an associate circuit judge in Webster County from 1979 until 2007.
The costs of the investigation will be paid by the Attorney General’s Office.