Missouri House Speaker Dean Plocher said he would “absolutely not” consider resigning over allegations of wrongdoing that have engulfed him in recent weeks, joining one of his most vocal supporters on Thursday in painting the saga as a conspiracy whipped up by “leftist” media, Democrats and disgruntled staff.
Plocher, a Republican from Des Peres who is running for lieutenant governor next year, is facing increasing calls for his resignation over revelations that he filed false expense reports with the legislature seeking reimbursement for things his campaign had already paid for.
Last week, he began repaying those misappropriated expenses, insisting his decision to start writing checks to pay back the House was made without any knowledge of a pending story.
“Should this have happened? No, and it’s embarrassing,” Plocher said. “You know, it’s a checkbook error, but there’s a lot of accounts bouncing around. It’s quite tedious.”
But even as he dismissed calls for his resignation from his fellow Republicans, they continued to grow.
State Rep. Chris Sander, a Republican from Lone Jack, was the first member of the House to publicly call for Plocher to step down.
Wednesday night, Sander was joined by GOP state Rep. Mazzie Boyd of Hamilton. She released a statement on social media citing both the false expense reports as well as accusations of misconduct surrounding Plocher’s push for the House to enter into an $800,000 contract with a company to manage constituent information.
“But while these are merely accusations, there seems to be a pattern developing. As a conservative member of the Missouri House, I have lost confidence that Speaker Plocher can lead effectively.”
State Rep. Doug Richey, a Republican from Excelsior Springs who is running for state Senate, released a statement Thursday morning calling Plocher’s false expense reports “extremely troubling.”
“I want to be clear — Dean Plocher should resign as speaker of the House for the good of the state and the Republican caucus,” he said. “I take no pleasure in this acknowledgement.”
State Rep. Brian Seitz, a Republican from Branson, is publicly backing Plocher, posting a statement on social media urging his party not to “eat our own.”
“We do not want a debacle like what happened to the speaker in Washington, D.C.,” Seitz said, later adding that while he doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with Plocher, “he has been someone who has been open to criticism and willing to listen to other perspectives.”
The speaker also won support Thursday from a Democratic lawmaker, with state Rep. Ian Mackey of St. Louis posting that there is “no reason for Dean to step down.”
“Donald Trump is being charged with 94 felonies including an insurrection and he’s being given the presumption of innocence,” Mackey said. “Why not Dean? And as a Democrat I can say Dean’s been a great Speaker to work with.
Plocher sat down Thursday morning for his first interview since The Independent revealed he’d sought reimbursement for years from the legislature for expenses already covered by his campaign.
Submitting false expense reports could be prosecuted as stealing from the state, a class A misdemeanor. It could also be considered false declaration, a class B misdemeanor that involves knowingly submitting any written false statement. Plocher could also have run afoul of laws prohibiting campaign contributions from being converted to personal use.
For Thursday’s interview, Plocher chose Scott Faughn, the publisher of an online compendium of press releases and opinion pieces called the Missouri Times. Both men questioned the timing of The Independent’s inquiry, calling it suspicious because it came so quickly after Plocher began paying back the House.
“I wrote the check, I turned it in to House accounts. And within about an hour, I received an email from The Independent telling me they were going to do an article,” Plocher said.
In August, The Independent requested documents from the House about the $800,000 constituent management contract. Among those documents was a letter Plocher wrote seeking reimbursement for a plane ticket to Hawaii for a conference.
So on Oct 5, The Independent requested all of Plocher’s expenses. The House turned over the documents on Oct. 11.
Other media appear to have also requested Plocher’s expenses around this time.
After reviewing the 300 pages of Plocher’s expense reimbursements, The Independent found that on at least nine occasions since 2018, Plocher spent campaign money on conference registration, airfare, hotels and other travel expenses, and then also sought reimbursement from the legislature.
In each instance, Plocher was required to sign a sworn statement declaring that the payments were made with “personal funds, for which I have not been reimbursed.”
The Independent reached out to Plocher on Friday laying out its findings and asking for an interview or a comment. His campaign responded on Monday with a letter he’d sent the House acknowledging he’d begun repaying some of the reimbursements.
Plocher insists his wife, who is also his longtime campaign treasurer, first alerted him to the illegal reimbursements last week.
“You don’t know what it’s like to file these reports until you walk in someone’s shoes, but as a public official, it’s my duty, I believe, to check my work,” he said.
So far, Plocher has reimbursed the House for nearly $4,000.
Both Faughn and Plocher also dismissed another element of the saga: That FBI agents attended a September hearing where the constituent management contract was discussed.
The speaker was pushing legislative staff to get on board with a contract with a private company to manage constituent information, even though a new in-house system had just been developed and rolled out.
The Independent saw an agent at the hearing where the contract was rejected. Three other people who also attended the hearing confirmed that the FBI was in attendance.
The Missouri House Ethics Committee is scheduled to meet Friday morning, and it is widely expected that Plocher will be the focus of the closed-door hearing.
Faughn said during the interview that he obtained documents showing the hearing will pertain to the dismissal of Plocher’s chief of staff, who he fired earlier this month. Plocher denied that the staff shakeup had anything to do with the constituent management contract, and declined to comment on the focus of the hearing.
Plocher was elected to the House in 2015 in a special election called to fill the vacant seat of House Speaker John Diehl, who was forced to resign following revelations he had been sending sexually-charged text messages to a 19-year-old legislative intern.
During Thursday’s interview, which was live-streamed on social media, Plocher’s phone rang and the phone announced the incoming call was from Diehl’s number.
Faughn spent most of his time during the interview attacking The Independent, which broke the false expense reports story on Monday.
At one point, he focused on a nonprofit news agency called the Missouri News Horizon that applied for membership in the Missouri Capital News Association in 2010, and after some initial consternation about a lack of transparency with its donors, was accepted as a full member.
The News Horizon was provided parking and office space at the Missouri Capitol, and covered the legislature as a member of the association until 2013 when it went out of business.
However, Faughn repeated a lie he has regularly told about Missouri News Horizon’s experience, falsely claiming the organization was denied membership because it did not disclose its donors and was founded by a conservative foundation.
The Independent is an affiliate of States Newsroom, a 501c3 nonprofit that discloses its donors. It was founded in October 2020 and was accepted as a member of the Capitol News Association in April 2021.