Transportation chairman criticizes proposed changes to agency

Saturday, March 8, 2003

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Proposals to revamp Missouri's transportation department would benefit politicians, not the public, says the chairman of the Missouri State Highways and Transportation Commission.

Chairman Ollie Gates took aim Friday at proposals backed both by Democratic Gov. Bob Holden and by Republican Sen. Jon Dolan, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.

Legislation by Dolan would allow the governor to appoint and oversee an inspector general authorized to investigate allegations of waste, fraud and abuse in the transportation department. The agency already has an internal inspector general.

Separately, Holden has proposed that the director of the Missouri Department of Transportation be appointed by -- and report to -- the governor. The director currently is appointed by the six-member commission and answers to that board.

Gates said the changes would destroy the purpose of the transportation commission, which is appointed by the governor but functions independently.

"Wise Missourians years ago set up an independent commission to protect the people from the pressures of partisan politics," Gates said. "I think neutering the commission and having the transportation director appointed by the governor is dangerous."

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