To avoid Greitens redux, Missouri House plans to fire Rick Roeber before he can quit

The Kansas City Star Editorial Board
·3 min read

In an extraordinary decision Thursday, the Missouri House voted to postpone its acceptance of disgraced state Rep. Rick Roeber’s resignation.

Last year, two of Roeber’s adult children said he subjected them to abuse when they were young. A third sibling said she was aware of the abuse. A fourth sibling claimed Roeber abused him two decades ago, a case that was investigated by local authorities.

Roeber, a Republican, denied all the allegations, claiming a House Ethics Committee investigation would clear his name. Instead, on Tuesday, House Speaker Rob Vescovo and Ethics Committee Chairman Travis Fitzwater called Roeber’s adult children “credible” and his behavior “heinous.”

Roeber submitted his resignation letter, making no mention of the alleged abuse. He represents the 34th House District, which includes parts of Lee’s Summit. He was to leave Friday.

By delaying Roeber’s resignation, House members are essentially keeping him around so they can fire him. It would be the first expulsion of a sitting member of the Missouri House since 1865, when state Rep. John Sampson was kicked out for being a secessionist.

Just as in Roeber’s case, Sampson tried to quit first. But House members rejected his resignation so they could vote to eject him unanimously.

A similar tactic is now being pursued against Roeber. State Rep. Richard Brown of Kansas City, a Democrat, said Roeber should not be allowed to “escape” before the case is fully explored.

“Our work is not yet done,” said Brown, who is vice chairman of the Ethics Committee. The House vote to postpone the resignation was 153-0.

The Ethics Committee report is expected Monday, and an expulsion vote is possible Wednesday.

It is clear that House members from both parties want to send a clear message in Roeber’s case: Credible allegations of physical and sexual abuse are disqualifying for anyone who would seek a legislative seat.

They may also want to avoid the Eric Greitens problem, in which the former governor resigned before his likely impeachment only to falsely claim “exoneration” later. Thursday’s step means the Roeber facts will be fully known, and a vote taken.

Those are welcome developments. Republicans, in particular, should be recognized for pursuing the facts in the Roeber case, and resisting the urge to turn this horror into a political football. The committee’s work appears truly bipartisan.

At the same time, this delay extends the ordeal for the Roeber children, who have suffered for decades for their father’s actions. Their stories will be made public next week, although they are not expected to tell them in person.

Extending this horror is regrettable. Again, the courage of Roeber’s children has been astonishing, and all Missourians should recognize it. They’ll need to be strong again next week.

We’re confident Roeber will soon be out the door. Criminal charges remain a possibility, and we urge authorities to examine the Ethic Committee’s findings once they’re made public. Roeber should take full responsibility for his actions, and for the hurt he has caused.

Then voters in the 34th District can once again consider their options for the seat, which Rick Roeber soiled.