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Feb. 1, 2024 |  By: Jason Hancock - Missouri Independent

Dean Plocher dismisses questions about ongoing ethics probe, fired House staffer

dean plocher

By Jason Hancock - Missouri Independent

Missouri House Speaker Dean Plocher bristled Thursday morning at questions about a recently fired legislative staffer and an ongoing ethics investigation he’s facing, cutting off a press conference he convened after only four minutes.

A day after he dismissed his legislative director, who had worked for the House since 2016 and served in the position under two previous speakers, Plocher declined to answer questions about it.

“Those are human resources issues,” he said. “I’m not going to comment on that.”

Wednesday’s departure marks the third high-profile staffer to leave Plocher’s office in recent months, as an ethics inquiry into allegations of misconduct by the speaker continues to swirl.

Asked what the trio of departures means for his office, Plocher said: “Just that. I have my staff.”

“I’m excited to move forward,” he said. “We’re moving the state in the right direction. The House is working hard.”

The former staff member, Erica Choinka, was dismissed Wednesday afternoon and was escorted from the Capitol during the busiest day of the legislative work week. The House and Senate adjourn for the week on Thursdays, leaving the statehouse largely empty until Monday.

Shortly after the press conference ended, Plocher released a statement formally announcing his new legislative coordinator — Daris Davis, a former legislative assistant in the House and chief of staff in the state Senate.

Plocher was also asked whether he had been interviewed by the House Ethics Committee as part of its investigation, to which he responded: “Regarding what?”

He then added, after the reporter clarified the question: “I can’t comment on that. You know that.”

Proceedings of the committee are confidential, and none of the discussions, testimony or evidence gathered is public until a report is issued.

Plocher did say Thursday that he hopes the ethics committee finishes its work soon.

“I would love it to have it be completed today,” he said.

The ethics inquiry was launched late last year after The Independent reported that Plocher had on numerous occasions over the years illegally sought reimbursement from the legislature for airfare, hotels and other travel costs already paid for by his campaign.

Plocher is also accused of threatening nonpartisan House staff during his unsuccessful push last summer for the chamber to spend nearly $800,000 to hire a private company to manage constituent information.

The revelations led several Republican officials — including members of the House GOP caucus — to call for Plocher to resign.

Asked Thursday morning how he believes the legislative session has been going following those calls for his resignation, Plocher abruptly ended the press conference.

“I clearly have no intention to resign,” he said, interrupting a reporter’s follow-up question by adding: “Is that it? Thank you, guys. I appreciate it.”