Despite what some may say, the State Board shake up and the termination of its executive director came as a surprise. But the most surprising move by the Division was the termination of Randall Jennings, the preneed examination supervisor. The examination supervisor had no role whatsoever in the funeral home inspection process. Baffled by that development, I went to a source that is in the know about how Jefferson City works. Respecting the anonymity sought by this source, all I can offer is that a preneed seller had complained that the exam supervisor had referred to him with a derisive political adjective.
Over the course of the past 10 years, my clients have been through dozens of preneed financial examinations. Those examinations had put me in contact with Mr. Jennings numerous times. In some situations, this meant meeting with Mr. Jennings at the client’s office to discuss seller records and the procedures to be followed. In each such meeting, Mr. Jennings behaved in a courteous and professional manner. While a few clients complained about the onsite examination being an imposition on their time, none complained about Mr. Jennings’ demeanor.
Acknowledging that this source has an irrefutable reputation within the industry, I can’t help but think that the complaining preneed seller had other cause for going to the Governor or the Division. Seeking to capitalize on the Governor’s displeasure over funeral home inspections, the seller planted another issue to address with a State Board housecleaning. If the allegation had been handled appropriately, the Division would have referred it to the State Board when it had members familiar with Mr. Jennings and the preneed seller. But instead, the Governor stacked the Board and the Division directed the terminations of the only two Board employees involved with the preneed reform efforts since the passage of Senate Bill No. 1.
For those who have forgotten, Senate Bill No. 1 was heralded by the Missouri Legislature as the reform that would protect Missouri preneed consumers (Senator Delbert Scott’s Press Release). The Columbia Missourian reported how the new law authorized regular and random state audits of prepaid funeral sellers to ensure consumer funds remained in trust until funerals were paid for.
How does the State of Missouri propose to fulfill its promises of protection to the preneed consumers when the State Board is stripped of all employees with examination experience? Will the Governor follow Harry’s lead and state the Buck stops at his desk?