Jefferson City, December 19, 2014 – Last week, the Joint Committee on Government Accountability met to organize and prepare to look into the state’s response to the events in Ferguson, Mo., and the surrounding area. As a member of the committee, I am looking forward to understanding how decisions were made regarding the use of state funds and the deployment of state resources, including the Highway Patrol and National Guard. The committee is only looking into the state’s role and no other issues.
According to one report, the state has already spent more than $12 million for the deployment of the Highway Patrol and National Guard. A few weeks ago, the governor announced he would call a special session to deal with funding issues regarding that deployment. Senate leaders, including the Senate Appropriations Committee chair, questioned the need for the call and referenced available and unused funding in the budget. The governor agreed and ultimately did not call for the special session. These funding issues will be one focus of the committee in the future.
As a 22-year military member and a member of the Missouri National Guard, I will be specifically interested in answers to questions regarding the state of emergency issued by the governor and the deployment and use of National Guard forces and the Missouri Highway Patrol. There appears to be a disconnect between how and where such forces were deployed. I am curious what directives were given to National Guard commanders from the governor’s office and whether they were given the leeway they needed to properly handle a fluid situation.
The committee will also look into the communication between administrative leaders and local officials. It is troubling that two local mayors are saying they were unable to get a hold of anyone in the governor’s office to relay information and ask for help. That lack of communication may have led to more chaos.
Our hope is that the administration will work with the committee to provide the documents and testimony needed to tell the whole story. This will allow the committee to better understand how to plan for future situations. Because the governor’s office had no communication with the Legislature prior to decisions being made, we were unable to play any role at all in the state’s response.
The committee will meet again after session starts on Jan. 7. At that time, my hope is that we will have a list of requested documents and can begin the process of investigating the state’s role in a situation that clearly got out of control.
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Senator Will Kraus serves Eastern Jackson County in the 8th State Senatorial District.