JEFFERSON CITY - A bitter dispute emerged late Thursday when the top Senate Republican accused Gov. Bob Holden of offering a seat on the redistricting commission in return for GOP support of a $747 million transportation plan.
In an account disputed by the governor's office, Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder said Holden made the offer during a closed-door meeting that also included House Minority Leader Catherine Hanaway, R-Warson Woods.
Hanaway did not dispute the accusations, but refused to elaborate, saying the meeting was private.
Kinder said Holden called the 45-minute meeting to discuss appointments to fill Republican vacancies on the House and Senate state redistricting commission.
But, Kinder alleged, Holden said he would fill the vacancies only if the Republican supported his transportation plan.
"I am deeply dismayed that Governor Holden has suggested to me that he would fill the vacancy if I supported his transportation package," Kinder said in a written statement.
"The Constitution does not say the governor shall fill all vacancies if I vote for the governor's $700 million per year tax increase," continued the statement distributed to reporters.
Holden spokesman Jerry Nachtigal disputed Kinder's account of the meeting.
"The governor is livid about Sen. Kinder's statement, which is a complete fabrication," Nachtigal said in an interview. "The governor did not, in any form, and Peter Kinder knows this, offer to trade a vote for a position on the redistricting commission for Peter Kinder to sign on to the governor's transportation plan."
Kinder acknowledged that Holden did not explicitly link the appointment to the transportation plan, but said "it was clear to me that that was the whole purpose of the meeting."
"It might be my interpretation," he added.
Nachtigal said Kinder, Holden and Hanaway discussed both redistricting and transportation, but that the governor only asked Kinder to support the transportation plan under consideration in the Senate.
Hanaway also said the three discussed redistricting and transportation in the meeting, but she said "I'm not entirely comfortable commenting on what happened."
She also questioned Kinder's decision to make the meeting public, saying, "it was a personal choice -- it didn't really have much to do with legislative agenda."
The controversy began in February after Republicans proposed Rep. Mark Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, as a possible appointment to both the House and Senate Apportionment Commissions.
But Richardson withdrew himself from consideration after discovering that he could not serve simultaneously in the legislature and on the commissions. Holden selected him for both commissions anyway, saying he had no other option.
Richardson resigned, creating a vacancy. Holden then asked Attorney General Jay Nixon to determine the requirements for appointment and whether he needed Senate approval to fill vacancies.
Nixon, in an opinion released Thursday morning, determined Holden may appoint any Republican to the commissions, but the selection must be confirmed by the Senate.
Republicans have submitted Catherine Lang, a prosecuting attorney in Cuba, Mo., for Holden's consideration.
A decision is expected within the next several days, Holden said.