Missouri House delays lawmaker resignation to finish review

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri House has refused to accept a lawmaker’s resignation to allow the Ethics Committee to fully investigate allegations that he physically and sexually abused his children years ago.

Rep. Rick Roeber said he sent a letter to Speaker of the House Rob Vescovo (R-Arnold) Tuesday saying he is resigning to move out of state, closer to extended family.

Roeber narrowly won the seat in November after the position was left vacant by his wife, Rep. Rebecca Roeber, who died in 2019.

Representatives want him to remain in office until the House Ethics Committee releases its months-long investigation and voted Thursday to not accept his resignation.

“I rise to place an objection,” Ethic Chair Rep. Travis Fitzwater (R-Holts Summit) said Thursday. “We need to do this to allow the Ethics Committee to finalize its proceedings to go through the information it received and to bring forth on this floor that statement and report from that committee.”

In his resignation letter to Vescovo, Roeber said his final day in the House would be Friday, but lawmakers say not so fast.

“It’s not right to accept this resignation and to allow this member to escape without giving us full recognition to what has taken place,” top-ranking Democrat on the Ethics Committee Rep. Richard Brown (D- Kansas City) said.

Roeber’s adult children have accused Roeber of sexual and physical abuse when they were younger. The allegations became public during his campaign.

Since being elected, he was removed from the Republican caucus.

Vescovo and Fitzwater released a statement this week saying the allegations are credible:

“Our caucus and our institution have a zero-tolerance policy for anyone who would endanger the well-being of a child, and it’s clear that Rick Roeber’s heinous actions make him not only unfit for office, but should also make him the subject of a thorough investigation by law enforcement. To that end, we have communicated with the appropriate law enforcement officials to share our concerns about the risk he may pose to other children.

The House Ethics Committee did exemplary work in investigating the troubling allegations made by his children and found them to be credible. For far too long his children were ignored and the abuses they suffered were swept under the rug. We are appalled by the disturbing details uncovered by the committee and ashamed of the way the system failed to protect them from harm.

With his resignation today, we take an important step to protect the integrity of the House as an institution, but it’s far more important that we do all we can to seek justice for his children and to ensure he never again causes harm to another child. His resignation allows him to walk away from his duties as a representative, but we cannot allow him to once again walk away from the children he victimized.”

The House unanimously agreed to reject Roeber’s resignation.

After the vote, House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, released a statement.

“We have always placed our trust in the bipartisan House Ethics Committee and followed its recommendations, and we fully support the committee’s decision to pursue its investigation of Rick Roeber to conclusion. The House has a duty to secure whatever justice it can for his adult children, who courageously made public the allegations of abuse by their father despite the great emotional pain of reliving their trauma, and protect other children from enduring similar abuse. To fulfil that duty, the House cannot allow Roeber to simply walk away.”

Roeber’s seat was empty in the chamber Thursday and his office door was shut. His resignation letter mentioned nothing about the investigation or the allegations.

“This is a very serious allegation that has been brought forth before this body,” Brown said. “Our work is not yet done.”

Roeber’s letter goes on to say, “After one legislative session, I have done what I set out to do in the Missouri Legislature in 2021.”

Across the Capitol, Senators say he should be held accountable.

“If any part of the stories I’ve read are true, he needs to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and should probably be in jail,” Senate Minority Floor Leader John Rizzo (D-Kansas City) said. “He seems like a pretty bad person who shouldn’t be in this body or shouldn’t be in this building.”

Senate Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia) said he agrees with the steps the House is taking.

“Certainly, those allegations, if any of them are near true, I’m glad they did it,” Rowden said. “I hope that they hold it up long enough that the guy gets criminally prosecuted.”

The Ethics Committee plans to release the report next week. Our Missouri Chief Capitol Bureau Reporter Emily Manley reached out to Roeber’s office and was told he has no comment.

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