Lawmakers squabble over firing a Nixon administration official
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Lawmakers squabble over firing a Nixon administration official

Date: February 2, 2016
By: Riley Newton
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - A Republican state representative called for the dismissal of a top Missouri health official for her response to a legislative investigation into Planned Parenthood.

The call came under immediate attack from a senior House Democrat who said it is "a witch hunt."

The call for the dismissal of Mental Health Department Counsel Gail Vasterling came from Rep. Mike Moon, R-Lawrence County.

His letter referred to Vasterling's responses to a legislative committee investigating Planned Parenthood while Vasterling was director of the state Health Department. Moon charged she deferred answers to others in the department, including the department's legal staff.

"I found this to be an act of blatant disregard for the committee, since she is herself is an attorney and should have known what her limitations were," Moon wrote in his letter to a number of legislators including the House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff.

Moon stated in his letter that Vasterling frequently answered "if I can," to the committee's questions.

The interim committee was created to investigate Planned Parenthood after distribution of a national edited video that purported to show Planned Parenthood discussing reimbursement for delivery of aborted fetal body parts.

In response to Moon's letter, Rep Stacey Newman, D- St. Louis Country, issued a statement attacking Moon.

"I find this harassment and bullying of legislators at it's very best," Newman said in a statement. "Because the former director of the Dept. of Health and Senior Services could not legally answer questions posed to her by the House committee on their 'witch hunt' of Planned Parenthood, Rep. Moon wants her salary eliminated. Rep. Moon is continuing the agenda of Sen. Kurt Schaefer by insisting the budget process be held hostage because of an anti-abortion campaign agenda."

In an interview following the release of Newman's statement, Moon said Vasterling was and is still failing at her executive duties.

"It doesn't matter what side of the fence I am on about abortion," Moon said. "If the general public knew that someone was given a chance to answer questions again and again and could not answer, that should be a call for action."

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