A bill has been filed in the Missouri General Assembly that proposes to divide the State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors membership evenly between the public and industry representatives. That Board currently consists of 5 industry members and 1 public member. The bill sponsor, Representative Joe Don McGaugh, is from a district that includes Ray County, where hundreds of consumers lost preneed funds paid to Polley Funeral Home. The Representative is of the opinion that the State Board’s industry members sat on their hands despite consumers and funeral home competitors complaints against Polley Funeral Home. The State Board’s discipline page reflects that the Polley preneed seller license was first suspended in 2011, and quickly reinstated, only to be suspended and reinstated in following years. After Mr. Polley was arrested on drug charges in 2015 (smoking meth in his hearse while parked in a casino lot), the Ray County prosecutor sought assistance from the Missouri Attorney General in pursuing criminal charges for preneed fraud. By the time fraud charges were filed in 2016, the consumers’ preneed funds were gone.
In 2009, the Missouri Legislature rewrote the state’s preneed law, requiring the State Board to conduct periodic preneed audits, and granting the Board concurrent jurisdiction to pursue criminal prosecutions against funeral directors that failed to handle consumer funds appropriately. At least one Legislator feels the State Board will take those responsibilities more seriously if consumers have an equal say.