Vacancies common on Mo. state boards

Monday, October 1, 2007

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- There's been a lot of aging since the last generation of appointees joined the Governor's Advisory Council on Aging. And the Missouri Horse Racing Commission has essentially been put out to pasture.

Though there are moves to revive both, those two government groups are symbolic of the lagging resident involvement on Missouri's many boards and commissions.

An Associated Press analysis of more than 200 boards, commissions, councils and committees to which the governor makes appointments found that 40 percent have vacancies and two-thirds have members whose terms have expired but have not been replaced or reappointed.

The aging council had 27 positions -- all of which were either vacant or expired. The man listed as chairman on the governor's Internet site says he actually resigned a couple of years ago. And the phone number listed for the commission is disconnected.

The horse racing panel may have the oldest membership. Of its five positions, one is vacant and three others remained filled by people whose terms expired in the mid-1990s. A spokeswoman for the Missouri Gaming Commission says the last recorded meeting occurred March 31, 1998.

Yet those examples are not isolated. Consider one of Missouri's longest-named panels -- the Special Health, Psychological and Social Needs of Minority Older Individuals Commission. Of its 10 appointed positions, seven have expired and three are vacant.

The AP analysis found 126 appointees still on government panels even though their terms expired before Gov. Matt Blunt took office in January 2005. The general assumption under Missouri law is that appointees can continue serving until replaced -- no matter when their terms expire.

In June, Blunt put out a public appeal for Missourians to apply for boards and commissions "to use their God-given talents to help enhance the services we deliver."

It resulted in some additional applications, said Blunt spokeswoman Jessica Robinson.

But it's not always easy to find people with the specialized skills required for some boards who are willing give up their free time for unpaid positions that require them to submit to background checks, she said.

"We are constantly looking for eligible and willing volunteers," Robinson said.

Yet more than 600 of the some 1,500 governor-appointed positions on boards and commissions remain vacant or expired.

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