Missouri’s new State Board will have its first meeting this week, and one week after the State was sued by a former State Board employee. The lawsuit alleges that the Division of Professional Registration usurped State Board authority to fire employees who had defied Division Director warnings to stand down. What we now know through news reports is that the State Board and its staff were pursuing enforcement actions against funeral home establishments and at least one major preneed seller. While the State Board did heed a Division directive about picture taking during funeral home inspections, the staff continued to investigate problem funeral homes and preneed sellers. Obviously this displeased the Division Director who then manipulated the Governor’s Office by seeking the appointment of four State Board members who had agreed to violate the State’s open meeting law and follow the Division’s instructions. In the aftermath, State Board disciplinary proceedings were dismissed or modified without formal Board actions. Those actions were contrary to promises the Legislature had made to preneed consumers with the passage of Senate Bill No.1. Bowing to pressure from Missouri’s Senate, the Governor withdrew the four State Board appointments.
Missouri funeral directors are curious whether the Division will still be pulling State Board strings. They are asking whether the new State Board will reinstate discipline proceedings against the Warrensburg funeral home with licensing issues and preneed problems. What is the status of that preneed audit against a major preneed seller? What has the Division been doing with inspections and audits during the past 7 months?
We are also curious about what the whistleblower lawsuit will turn up through its discovery efforts. Immediately following the termination of the Board staff, the executive director of a major preneed seller suggested to us that the preneed audit supervisor had been included in the firings because he had made derogatory statements to a preneed seller that had been disciplined. That executive director advised that the preneed seller had strong connections to the Governor and that’s how business works in Jeff City. We can’t help but think that those suggestions were a red herring, and that the whistleblower lawsuit will uncover the identity of the troubled preneed seller.