Missouri governor backs Veterans Commission director

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Jay Nixon affirmed his support Tuesday for the director of the Missouri Veterans Commission after some commissioners made an unsuccessful effort to replace him.

Nixon spokesman Jack Cardetti denied that the Democratic governor had any role in the effort by two of his commission appointees to replace executive director Larry Kay with former director Hal Dulle.

"The attempt to oust Gen. Kay was unexpected and disappointing," Cardetti said. "Gen. Kay has the governor's full support as executive director of the commission."

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch first reported Tuesday that the effort to replace Kay had failed because of a 2-2 tie, with one abstention, during a closed meeting Friday of the Missouri Veterans Commission.

Commission Chairman Joe Frank told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the meeting had been requested by new Nixon appointee Emmett Fairfax, a former chairman of the commission. Frank said that new Nixon appointee Paul Connors, who was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday, made the motion to replace Kay with Dulle.

The motion failed on a 2-2 vote when new Nixon appointee Nancy Nelson abstained, Frank said. Two appointees of former Republican Gov. Matt Blunt — Frank and John Comerford — voted against the motion.

The Veterans Commission said the minutes from last week's meeting were not yet complete on Tuesday.

Frank said he was shocked at the attempt to replace Kay.

"For someone to come in and try and politicize it is just a disservice, a discredit to all the veterans in the state," Frank said.

Dulle has said he resigned in August after being asked to do so by commissioners following a meeting with Blunt's chief of staff, Trish Vincent. Blunt's spokeswoman said at the time that Vincent had not suggested Dulle should be replaced.

Frank said Dulle was replaced because he lacked support within the Republican-led General Assembly, which would have made it hard to enact Veterans Commission proposals. Frank also said Blunt's administration was unhappy that Dulle had been saying positive things about Nixon on Dulle's Jefferson City radio show.

Dulle said he's been lobbying to get his job back since then.

Kay, who is a brigadier general in the Missouri National Guard, returned last month after commanding a multinational peacekeeping force in Kosovo for the past year. The former deputy director, Kay was elevated to the top job while he was on active duty.

Fairfax told the Post-Dispatch that one reason the vote to replace Kay failed was because of concern that the commission could be in violation of federal law if it demoted Kay while he was still on active duty. Kay has returned to the U.S. but won't be back at work as director of the commission until May 18.


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