April 17, 2021

By Jason Hancock
missouriindependent.com

By a unanimous vote, the House will allow the ethics investigation to continue

The Missouri House refused to accept the resignation of Rep. Rick Roeber on Thursday, with a bipartisan group of lawmakers arguing that the ethics committee should complete its investigation into allegations that he sexually and physically abused his children.

“This is a serious allegation that has been brought forth before this body.” said Rep. Richard Brown, D-Kansas City. “It’s not right to accept this resignation and allow this member to escape without us giving full recognition to what has taken place here.”

Three adult children of Rep. Rick Roeber, R-Lee’s Summit, publicly alleged that in 1990 he molested his adopted daughter when she was 9 years old. He was previously accused of sexual abuse by a fourth sibling.

Despite the allegations, which became public more than a month before Election Day, Roeber defeated his Democratic opponent by 300 votes.

The House Ethics Committee launched an investigation in January. It was close to completing its work when Roeber announced his resignation on Tuesday.

The announcement came shortly after The Independent reported on a letter House Speaker Rob Vescovo wrote to Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Backer stating that over the course of the House Ethics Committee investigation, “we have learned information that needs to be forwarded to the proper authorities in your jurisdiction.”

Roeber has regular weekend visits with a minor child, the letter states, and “given the severity of the allegations raised by Rep. Roeber’s children, we are concerned for the safety of this minor child.”

Baker responds later that day in an email to Vescovo, saying she contacted the chief of police in Lee’s Summit and “will work with him to devise a plan.” She also requested transcripts from the House investigation so her office could review them “for potential criminal activity.”

Roeber made no mention of Vescovo’s letter, Baker’s response or the accusations against him in his resignation announcement. Instead, he said he had to step down because he was moving out of his district.

On Thursday, Vescovo had the House clerk read Roeber’s resignation letter to the chamber. Ethics Committee Chairman Travis Fitzwater objected, saying the committee should complete its work before Roeber is allowed to resign.

The committee plans to issue its report next week.

The House agreed with Fitzwater and voted 153-0 not to accept Roeber’s resignation.