Legistors debate future of indicted house member
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Legistors debate future of indicted house member

Date: February 1, 2007
By: Sarah D. Wire
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY -  The future of a recently indicted state Representative involved with creating Missouri's almost $20 billion budget was deferred to House Minority leader Jeff Harris Thursday. 

Missouri House Speaker Rod Jetton said Thursday that he will not be making a decision regarding the future of Rep. John Bowman, D- St. Louis County, who was indicted this week on federal charges of felony bank and credit fraud. Jetton said the decision to remove Bowman from the powerful House Budget Committee will be left to Harris.

"Minority Leader Harris hasn't said a word to me about any of it so unless Harris has some reservations or problems" Jetton won't be addressing the issue he said.

Harris said he will not comment on the situation until the issue is resolved in the legal system and stressed that Bowman is innocent until proven guilty.

"These are obviously very serious charges and it's very early in the process and I think it's important to let the criminal system do it's job," Harris said.

Bowman, who is the head of Missouri's Black Legislative Caucus, was named to the Budget Committee last month. The Budget Committee is one of the strongest House committees because members write the state budget, which usually clears the House with only minor changes.

Harris avoided comment on whether a representative accused of felony credit fraud should continue serving on the House Budget Committee.

Bowman's role in an alleged Bank of America credit fraud scandal arose after the indictment against him and 17 other litigants was unsealed January 29. Bowman faces charges of felony bank fraud and credit fraud and is accused of filing for fraudulent small business loans in a scram allegedly directed by a former Bank of America vice-president.

Under Missouri law, legislators are allowed to continue serving at the Capitol despite any pending litigation.

Harris and other legislators said Bowman's indictment is not involved with his work in the legislature.

"The alleged actions and the alleged crimes took place outside of Jefferson City and the work he does here," Harris said.

The Associated Press reported that Bowman said he was not going to step down from his place in the legislature.

"He's elected by his district to come up here and represent those constituents, and we'll continue to work with the Minority Leader to make sure that Representative Bowman can do the job and represent his district," Jetton said.

Bowman returned to the Capitol Thursday for the first time since the fraud allegations arose. He declined to comment and directed all inquiries to his lawyer Scott Rosenblum. Rosenblum has said his client will plead not guilty.