Blunt calls on Cooper to resign soon

Friday, August 10, 2007

State Rep. Nathan Cooper should resign from "all positions of public trust," Gov. Matt Blunt said Thursday.

During an appearance in Cape Girardeau, Blunt said he received very little advance notice that Cooper would plead guilty to two federal felonies for immigration law violations. In a statement issued soon after he entered the guilty plea, Cooper said his resignation from the Missouri House "would be forthcoming."

But Cooper, a Cape Girardeau Republican, set no timeline for the resignation. Under Missouri law, he would not automatically lose his seat because of the guilty plea or at the time of his sentencing Oct. 19, when the conviction becomes official, a spokesman for Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon said.

But with Blunt calling a special session of the Missouri Legislature to begin Aug. 20, the resignation will become an issue if Cooper attempts to participate.

"I am of course counting on him to resign because of his very, very serious misconduct," Blunt said. "Everybody here is disappointed as am I."

Asked whether Cooper should participate if he holds onto his seat until Aug. 20, Blunt replied: "I don't believe that would be appropriate. Of course, there have been reports that he would resign or he said he would. We have yet to receive that resignation."

Once he resigns, it will be up to Blunt to set the date for a special election to fill the vacated seat. Cooper represents the 158th District, which includes most of Cape Girardeau.

The timing of the election would be decided on consultation with local officials, Blunt said. He did not promise to hold the election in time for Cape Girardeau to be represented when lawmakers convene for their next regular session in January.

Cooper is a member of the Cape Girardeau County Republican Central Committee. As a committee member, he also has a seat on the 158th District Committee, which will chose the GOP nominee for the seat. Blunt said Cooper should resign from that post as well.

"Given the very serious nature of the misconduct, he should resign from all polsition of public trust and that would be a public trust," Blunt said.

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