Minority Leader to make decision on state representative’s status

Friday, February 2, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:18 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — The status of a recently indicted state representative involved with creating Missouri’s almost $20 billion budget was deferred to House Minority Leader Jeff Harris on Thursday.

Missouri House Speaker Rod Jetton said Thursday, that he will not be making a decision regarding the future of Rep. John Bowman, D-St. Louis County, who was indicted earlier this week on federal charges of felony bank and credit fraud.

Bowman has to be tried independently for each charge. If convicted of credit fraud, Bowman faces up to 30 years in prison or a $1 million dollar fine, or both. If convicted for bank fraud, he faces 10 years in prison or a $250 million fine, or both.

Jetton said the decision to remove Bowman from the House Budget Committee will be left to Harris.

As the minority leader, Harris is in charge of minority committee appointments.

“Minority Leader Harris hasn’t said a word to me about any of it so unless Harris has some reservations or problems” Jetton won’t be addressing the issue he said.

Harris said he will not comment on the situation until the issue is resolved in the legal system and stressed that Bowman is innocent until proven guilty.

“These are obviously very serious charges and it’s very early in the process, and I think it’s important to let the criminal system do it’s job,” Harris said.

Bowman, who is the chairman of the Missouri Black Legislative Caucus, was named to the budget committee last month. Scott Rosenblum, Bowman’s lawyer, said that Bowman doesn’t plan to relinquish his position in the Black Caucus.

The committee is one of the strongest House committees because its members write the state budget, which usually clears the House with only minor changes.

Harris declined to comment on whether a representative accused of felony credit fraud should continue serving on the House Budget Committee.

The indictment against Bowman and 17 other litigants was unsealed Jan. 29. Bowman’s role in a Bank of America credit fraud scandal was described as filing for fraudulent small business loans in a scam directed by a former Bank of America vice-president.

Under Missouri law, legislators are allowed to continue serving at the Capitol despite any pending litigation.

Harris and other legislators said Bowman’s indictment is not involved with his work in the legislature.

“The alleged actions and the alleged crimes took place outside of Jefferson City and the work he does here,” Harris said.

Rosenbaum said that Bowman is not going to step down from his place in the legislature.

“He’s elected by his district to come up here and represent those constituents, and we’ll continue to work with the minority leader to make sure that Rep. Bowman can do the job and represent his district,” Jetton said.

Bowman returned to the Capitol on Thursday for the first time since the fraud allegations arose. He declined to comment and directed all inquiries to his lawyer.

Rosenblum said his client will plead not guilty.

He said; “On a personal level (Bowman) is upset but that does not change his resolve.”

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