Gov.-elect Nixon fires 150 workers

Wednesday, January 7, 2009 | 6:34 p.m. CST; updated 6:40 p.m. CST, Wednesday, January 7, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY — Gov.-elect Jay Nixon issued pink slips to about 150 state employees Wednesday, ending their jobs the moment he takes office next week.

The termination letters were sent primarily to employees in Cabinet-level, senior staff or policy-making positions, said Nixon spokesman Oren Shur.

The form letters tell employees they will be out of a job as of noon Monday — the hour at which Nixon, a Democrat, is to be sworn in as the successor to Republican Gov. Matt Blunt.

In December, Nixon's gubernatorial transition team sent letters to about 600 employees whose jobs were not covered by the state merit system. Those letters asked employees to either justify their jobs or lose them.

Employees were directed to submit their resumes and cover letters through an Internet site. The Web site also asked them to describe their current job duties, their qualifications and "the importance of your current position to the mission of your agency."

Shur said Wednesday that Nixon's transition team reviewed all the applications of employees wanting to keep their jobs before sending out the termination letters.

"Gov.-elect Nixon is building a team of highly qualified public servants who share his priorities to help bring about the change Missourians voted for last November," Shur said in an e-mailed statement. "So beginning next Monday, some of the state employees who serve at the pleasure of the outgoing governor will be replaced. Other positions will be consolidated or eliminated altogether in order to make government more efficient during these difficult economic times."

Among those who had reapplied for her job before being fired Wednesday was Connie Patterson, the spokeswoman for the Department of Natural Resources.

As attorney general, Nixon clashed frequently with outgoing DNR Director Doyle Childers and some of his top staff. But Patterson had served in various public information roles in the department for about 17 years under multiple governors, both Democratic and Republican.

Patterson said about 20 department employees received Nixon's termination letters.

"I certainly understand this is the authority of the governor to do this," Patterson said, but "I will miss the department and the work we do."

Nixon said in an interview Tuesday that he also intends to rescind scores of appointments made by Blunt that would otherwise be awaiting Senate confirmation. Some people may get re-nominated by Nixon but many others will not.

"I would expect that a new day will be noticeable," Nixon said.


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