Whistleblower lawsuit alleges retaliation by Missouri House speaker

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's House speaker once described “stupid Republican women” as “an invasive species,” according to a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit filed against the powerful lawmaker Friday.

House Chief Clerk Dana Miller's lawsuit alleged GOP House Speaker Dean Plocher and his Chief of Staff Rod Jetton retaliated against her after she raised concerns about his alleged mistreatment of women and misuse of state funds.

“I got along with the speaker until I told him ‘no,’” Miller told reporters Friday.

Plocher and his office did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment Friday from The Associated Press, but he has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

The House Ethics Committee in April dismissed a related complaint against Plocher, although the committee leader and an independent investigator had said the speaker used his power to block the investigation.

“From the outset of this investigation, I’ve maintained my innocence,” Plocher told reporters after the dismissal. He denied any obstruction on his part.

Plocher is barred from running for reelection to the House because of term limits. He is in a crowded Republican primary for the Missouri secretary of state's seat.

In her lawsuit, Miller claimed problems with Plocher began months before he ascended to the speakership in January 2023.

Miller, the top House nonpartisan administrator, said she met with Plocher in May 2022 after receiving several complaints about his treatment of female Republican lawmakers, including a woman who said she considered filing an ethics complaint against him.

When she raised those concerns with Plocher, Miller said he responded by saying: “stupid Republican women...they are an invasive species.”

Tensions between the speaker and chief clerk heightened in May 2023. Miller said Plocher began pushing to replace the House's constituent management software, which had been revamped in late 2022, with software from a company with ties to the law firm where Plocher worked.

When Miller pushed back, she said another lawmaker working with Plocher told her the speaker had repeatedly threatened to fire her.

Plocher faced additional public pushback related to a July 2023 work trip to Hawaii. He sought taxpayer reimbursement for a $1,200 business-class flight, valet parking and a $3,660 hotel stay, according to Miller's lawsuit.

Plocher repaid the state about $4,000 in October after the Missouri Independent began reporting on his use of campaign funds to pay for the plane ticket and numerous other expenses while also asking for taxpayer reimbursement.

Amid the increased public scrutiny, Plocher in November 2023 hired Jetton, a former House speaker who faced his own scandals.

Jetton served as House speaker from 2005 until January 2009, when he was prevented from running for office again because of term limits. He left the House while under federal investigation on a bribery allegation. He testified before a grand jury in 2010 but was never indicted.

Jetton allegedly told Miller around the time he was hired that he was “concerned about the addiction to ‘power’” he might have related to his work in the speaker’s office, the lawsuit claimed.

An Associated Press request for comment to Jetton was not immediately returned Friday.

Another staffer who met with Plocher and Jetton in December 2023 later told Miller that Jetton said the speaker’s office needs to “choke” Miller’s authority, and Jetton allegedly “made a physical choking gesture with both bands as he made this statement,” according to Miller’s lawsuit.

Miller, in her lawsuit, said the alleged comment was particularly concerning because Jetton in 2011 pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault while admitting that he hit and choked a woman during a sexual encounter in 2009.

Miller is seeking damages. On Friday, she said she plans to leave her position as clerk when her term is up in January 2025.