Missouri veterans director says he resigned under pressure

Wednesday, August 20, 2008 | 9:20 p.m. CDT; updated 9:28 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 20, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY - The director of Missouri's veterans' services agency said Wednesday he was forced to resign after pressure from Gov. Matt Blunt's administration.

Hal Dulle, 62, had worked for the Missouri Veterans Commission since 2001 and had been its director since 2006.

The commission issued a news release Tuesday saying Dulle had retired and praising his service.

But Dulle said in an interview Wednesday that he stepped down only after being asked to resign by commissioners. That came after the commission met privately with Blunt's chief of staff, Trish Vincent.

"I think the administration feels that I was ineffective - and would be ineffective in the future - in representing veterans over at the legislature," Dulle said. "As for the reasons, that's debatable. But in my opinion, as a result of comments Ms. Vincent made to the commission, they asked for my resignation."

Blunt spokeswoman Jessica Robinson said Wednesday that Vincent had been invited by commissioners to the closed meeting and did not suggest Dulle should be replaced. She declined to say what Vincent told commissioners.

Blunt released a positive written statement about Dulle.

"I appreciate Hal Dulle's service on the Missouri Veterans Commission and wish him well," Blunt said. "I commend him for his service to our nation as a veteran and to our state on this important commission."

In a written statement announcing Dulle's departure, the Veterans Commission said he had overseen the expansion of Missouri's veterans cemetery program, worked to increase funding for veterans' grants and enhanced minority and women's veterans services.

Chairman Joe Frank, of St. Louis, said in that written statement: "We are proud of the service Mr. Dulle has provided veterans and the state of Missouri."

Commission Vice Chairwoman Bernadette Miller of Springfield said Wednesday that Dulle had done "wonderful things" for the commission, but she declined to answer whether she believed he had still been doing a good job. She said Dulle chose to retire.

"I was in that meeting yesterday, and he wasn't asked to resign," Miller said.

Dulle and other veterans officials ruffled some politicians at the Capitol this year over their support for a proposed constitutional amendment that would have asked voters to approve a one-eighth-cent sales tax for the state Veterans Commission.

The measure passed the House but never came to a Senate vote. Blunt, a Navy veteran, generally has opposed tax increases and never publicly backed the proposed veterans tax increase.

House members amended the tax proposal to expand the five-member commission - which currently consists entirely of gubernatorially appointed veterans - by adding four lawmakers. The Veterans Commission opposed that expansion.

Dulle also is a Saturday talk show host for Jefferson City radio station KWOS-AM. But Dulle said he could not recall any political conversations on his radio show that could have irked state elected officials.

The Veterans Commission promoted Deputy Director Larry Kay to take over for Dulle.


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