SHOW ABOUT NOTHING?
A Senate committee looking into the Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) handling of E.coli test results made little progress during their second public hearing Friday, with Democratic members questioning the scope of the inquiry and Republicans expressing frustration with the agency's cooperation.
Democratic Sen. Joan Bray dominated much of the hour long hearing, asking Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy & Environment Chair Brad Lager about the goal of the inquiry and suggesting it has become a full-blown investigation.
"I think we've really gone off the deep end in terms of making this look like an investigation," Sen. Bray said. "This has all the markings of a criminal investigation and I want to hear the justifications for that," she went on, noting that no laws have been broken.
Lager repeatedly stressed that an investigation is "not what this committee is here for."
A major sticking point is the committee's efforts to interview DNR staffers. The department has blocked interviews by the committee thus far because of a dispute over whether workers can have attorneys present.
Senator Tim Green, another Democrat, strongly suggested that Lager call a public hearing so that elected Senators could do the questioning, rather than committee staffers. But he also said the committee is heading towards a "fishing expedition," and has made little progress towards its goal of a "policy review."
"It's starting to drag on a little too long," Green said.
To which Lager replied, "I want to do it right, not do it fast."
Sen. Matt Bartle, a Jackson County Republican, suggested that DNR is making the inquiry more like an investigation, taking it to "def con 4" by "insisting lawyers be present."
Bartle urged committee members to work together and show unity towards their effort, rather than Republicans trying to investigate Gov. Jay Nixon and Democrats attempting to protect him.
"I think this needs to be bi-partisan -- let's get to the bottom of this and see if we need policy changes," Sen. Bartle said.
The committee said it was in the middle of reviewing 200,000 pages of documents obtained from DNR, including agency protocols, testing procedures, press releases and e-mails. A Senate staffer said he could not estimate how long it would take to go through the material.
The committee is expected to meet again in mid-September.