JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri lawmakers considering whether to impeach Republican Gov. Eric Greitens may first have to wrestle with an unprecedented question: Does it matter that the alleged actions occurred before he was in office?
There is no definitive answer to that question because only one Missouri executive official has ever been ousted from office following impeachment and her offence was directly related to her job.
Greitens, 44, faces a felony invasion-of-privacy indictment in St. Louis for allegedly taking and transmitting a nonconsensual photo of a partially nude woman with whom Greitens says he had a consensual affair in 2015, a year before he won election.
Separately, a special legislative committee is to recommend in the coming weeks whether to pursue Greitens’ impeachment. The committee released a report last week that included testimony from the woman in which she said Greitens restrained, slapped, shoved and threatened her during a series of sexual encounters that at times left her crying and afraid.
The Missouri Constitution says executive officials can be impeached “for crimes, misconduct, habitual drunkenness, wilful neglect of duty, corruption in office, incompetency, or any offence involving moral turpitude or oppression in office.”
“This provision can be read a couple of different ways, kind of depending upon how you construct that sentence, which I think is going to lead to a legal argument about whether or not this is an impeachable offence under the constitution,” said Steve Gaw, an attorney and former Missouri House speaker who served on the state’s last impeachment panel.
“It’s a question that hasn’t been answered by the Missouri courts,” he added.
Gaw, a Democrat, was one of five lawmakers on a bipartisan committee that recommended the impeachment of Democratic Secretary of State Judi Moriarty in 1994 for the backdating of her son’s candidacy filing paperwork for a state House seat. Election paperwork is a core function of the secretary of state’s office, and the House impeached Moriarty on three misconduct counts. The Missouri Supreme Court, which conducted the subsequent trial, convicted her of all three and ousted her from office.
In his case, Greitens has asserted: “This was a private mistake that has nothing to do with governing.”
Most of the constitution’s list of impeachable offences — such as “corruption in office” or “wilful neglect of duty” — relate to the officeholder’s job.
Some have suggested Greitens could be impeached for “moral turpitude.” But because of the sentence structure — with an “or” at …read more