Two SEMO regents awaiting word on reappointment by governor

Friday, May 20, 2011

More than four months later, it's the same story -- two Southeast Missouri State University regents caught in a kind of political limbo.

Al Spradling and Reginald Dickson still are waiting on word whether Gov. Jay Nixon will nominate them to another term on the board. Their terms expired at the beginning of the year, although they continue to serve until they are nominated or other nominees are confirmed, a matter for the Senate to decide.

"I'm still in limbo," Spradling, longtime Cape Girardeau lawyer and the city's former mayor, said Thursday. "I've not heard anything."

Nixon spokesman Scott Holste said the governor is aware of the lapsed terms, but he could not provide a timeline on when the appointments would be made.

Nixon "certainly continues to move in that direction of having a board with new terms for those current members," Holste said.

Spradling and Dickson aren't the only board members in Missouri awaiting nomination or Senate confirmation. There are some 250 boards and commissions in the state, and the governor has yet to submit nominations for dozens of positions, some seeking reappointment, others to fill vacancies.

The Joplin Globe highlighted the issue in a recent editorial, decrying a "lackadaisical attitude in Jefferson City" when it comes to naming members to Missouri Southern State University's board of governors. One member's term ended in September 2009, the other, last August. Both men, like Spradling and Dickson, said they will continue to serve until the governor either reappoints them or appoints successors.

"It sends the message that members of the Board of Governors are just figureheads, when in fact, at least in recent years, they have been responsible for many of the major decisions made at MSSU," the editorial says.

The same holds true for Southeast's regents, responsible for a university of more than 11,000 students, and a general operating budget of around $120 million.

Holste said the Senate did not have nominations to consider for the Southeast regents positions before the session ended. While he said he could not provide an estimate on the numbers of vacancies and reappointments, he said the governor's office is "not aware of any active boards that lack a quorum."

"We are working through these appointments as efficiently and as appropriately as possible to make sure we have well-qualified people on these boards."

It has been an extraordinarily busy session, filled with bitter state budget debates and a string of natural disasters, punctuated by the Southeast Missouri floods. It isn't clear whether those urgent demands have delayed Nixon's constitutional duties of appointment.

There are geographical and political considerations involved, including balance in Republican and Democrat representation. Senators sponsor regent nominees in their districts, and the governor makes appointments taking into account that support.

Spradling said he sent Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, a letter several months ago seeking his support. In February, Spradling said he had not heard from Crowell. Nothing had changed as of Thursday.

Crowell, who reportedly encouraged Spradling to seek appointment to the board six years ago, repeated what he told the Southeast Missourian in February -- that he would not "speak to hypotheticals."

"You can ask me that when that question comes before me," he said Thursday, noting that he has yet to see nominations for the regents positions.

Spradling has said Crowell's silence signals a lack of support. Crowell has said he will do what is best for the board of regents and Missouri taxpayers but again declined to say whether he will support Spradling should he be nominated.

Dickson, Southeast's representative from St. Louis, could not be reached for comment.

Spradling and Dickson, by the mechanism of state law, may continue to serve on the board of regents until a successor is named or they are reappointed. Barring an extraordinary circumstance, they will remain on the board until at least the beginning of next year, when the legislature is back in session.

Spradling knows he has no control over the political process or the governor's appointments.

"That's his decision and the senator's decision as to whether he would support my appointment," he said. "I will keep on serving at the pleasure of the university until the reappointment is made and confirmed by Senate."

mkittle@semissourian.com

388-3627

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