The April 25th meeting of the Missouri State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors marked an important transition where industry members assumed control over the protection of consumers’ preneed funds. After the first round of financial examinations, the Board’s procedures for the second round were defined by the Board’s staff, and never submitted to the Board for discussion or approval. The Board staff moved forward on its own financial examination procedure handbook when the Board lost its quorum in January 2017. The staff’s exam procedures bogged down on the technical compliance of preneed contracts with Section 436.425. When the Board’s vacant seats were eventually filled in late 2017, the Board signaled its desire to change the direction of the financial examination process. However, that signal was ignored by the staff, and financial examinations continued to emphasize compliance with Section 436.425. Through letters to the Board’s financial examination committee, this author sought to demonstrate how Section 436.425 was being misinterpreted and misapplied. Through open records requests, we learned that the staff was not providing those communications to the State Board members. So, we began to communicate the exam issues directly to the State Board members.
With the April 25th agenda, the State Board chairman Gary Fraker opened the floor to our proposal to reform the examination process. We are very appreciative to Mr. Fraker for the opportunity to discuss the problems with the current examination process. And, the Board did more than just listen. Members directed probing questions to the Board’s examination staff and its executive director. When the agenda progressed into the discussion of preneed rule proposals, the Board’s industry members sought input from the public, but limited comments and recommendations that were protectionist in nature. The Board also gave deference to their peers with more preneed experience, and relied heavily upon Scott Meierhoffer for direction. As a result, the Board moved quickly through preneed regulations that had been pending for years. Several proposed regulations were scraped completely. Other proposals were modified, and a few were ‘re-adopted’ without revisions.
In our next blog posts we will look at the Board’s actions in more detail. Some of those actions will have an immediate impact upon the Missouri funeral industry. The staff had incorporated rule proposals into their examination procedures before they had been officially promulgated. By rescinding such a rule, the Board can reverse the issue immediately, and correct a wrong committed by the staff when enforcing a rule before it became law.