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Missouri Government News for Week of Oct. 2

This week's news summary was prepared by Candyce L. Clifft from reports prepared during the week by staff of Missouri Digital News.

AIDS Debt Began Earlier Than Reported

Federal AIDS funds provided for Missouri were overspent long before the hault on spending in September, according to an internal audit released by the Missouri Health Department.

The audit found an overcommittment of funds in 1994 totaling about $900,000. Earlier reports attributed the department's $1.6 million debt to overspending between April and September of this year.

The debt had been blamed on a lack of controls and inadequate monitoring. But, the conditions of the grant from the federal government under the Ryan White CARE Act require the state to submit quarterly and yearly financial status reports.

The Health Department had contracts with St. Louis and Kansas City to administer money given to local agencies by the federal government, and these contracts also required reports to be submitted.

According to the audit, the St. Louis reports were not submitted for 1994, and Kansas City has not yet designed a format for the reports, let alone received them.

Governor Can Name First Black to Supreme Court

Governor Mel Carnahan may make state history by naming the first black person to the Missouri Supreme Court. But, Carnahan's top aide said race would not figure in the governor's decision.

On October 2, the Appellate Judicial Commission sent Carnahan three nominees:

White, named by Carnahan in May 1994 to the Court of Appeals in St. Louis, is Missouri's only black appellate judge. White has also served as chairman of the Missouri House Judiciary Committee. He resigned from the House in May 1993 to become city counselor to St. Louis Mayor Freeman Bosley Jr.

By the first of November, Carnahan is expected to fill the vacancy created by the July death of Judge Elwood Thomas. Whoever the governor names will serve out Thomas' 12-year term, which expires in 2004.

Audit Finds Mismanagement in Ethics Agency

Missouri Ethics Commission staff members told an Office of Administration review team that confused management and Secretary Marion N. Sinnett were part of the commission's problems.

Staff members said Sinnett used state employees for personal business and favored certain legislators with special treatment. Sinnett called the responses "way off base."

Employees also said Sinnett did not understand the laws the agency enforces, worked irregular hours, and failed to give direction to employees.

"It is apparent from the comments that basic management functions are not being performed," the report says. "Jobs are switched often, leaving some employees with too much to do and others with nothing to do. Employees are confused about what their job is and who their supervisor is."

To remedy the problem, the commission voted on Oct. 2 to establish the position of deputy administrative secretary. The position will be responsible for the agency's day-to-day operations.

Staff members also criticized the conduct of former director Anne D. Haantz. Haantz resigned Sept. 22, three days after the commission received the Office of Administration's report.

O.J. Verdict Brings Statehouse to Halt

When the O.J. Simpson was found not guilty on Oct.3, state employees made sure they didn't miss the announcement. Like the rest of the nation, state officials spent their lunch hour glued to the television to hear the verdict.

Throughout state offices, workers were found huddled over TV sets awaiting the verdict.

Lt. Governor Roger Wilson said he was shocked when he heard the verdict. Wilson added that he wished Americans would spend the same amount of time and energy solving some of the nation's problems as they did watching what has been called the "trial of the century."