On Oct. 11, without explanation, Gov. Jay Nixon suddenly replaced Missouri Department of Agriculture Director Jon Hagler, who had held the post since Nixon took office in January 2009. Harry Bozoian, an attorney and longtime Nixon aide, immediately took over as acting director of the department. According to a news release from the governor’s office, Hagler will remain employed by the department through October “to assist with the transition,” although the release didn’t specify what duties he would have during that time.
The shakeup at the agriculture department came one day after Beth Ewers, the department’s associate director of meat and poultry inspection, sent a widely distributed email to department employees and others in which she said she was taking early retirement due to “an environment of hostility, disrespect, intimidation and fear” that she said Hagler created at the department. According to various news reports, officials in both the governor’s office and the department declined to comment on the situation.
Also on Oct. 11, Gov. Jay Nixon directed the Missouri Department of Corrections to cancel the scheduled execution of convicted murderer Allen Nicklasson amid international protests over the state’s plans to use the popular anesthetic propofol to administer the lethal injection. Nixon said the department will develop a new execution protocol involving a different form of lethal injection and that Attorney General Chris Koster will ask the Missouri Supreme Court to set another execution date for Nicklasson.
The Missouri Court of Appeals Western District on Oct. 15 unanimously rejected efforts by the state Department of Revenue to recall personalized license plates it issued to a University of Kansas Jayhawks fan that say “MZU SUX.” The plates were issued to Toby Gettler, who admitted the configuration is intended to be read as “Mizzou sucks.” The department sought to have them withdrawn after receiving a citizen complaint.
The department argued that the term “sucks” has a sexual meaning and is obscene and offensive. Gettler noted that the word is also commonly used to describe something as “objectionable or inadequate,” and cited numerous examples from contemporary culture in which the term is used in that manner and devoid of sexual connotation. An Administrative Hearing Commission sided with Gettler, and the appeals court upheld its decision.
Once again, I am including telephone numbers and a website you can access to learn more, ask questions or enroll in the Affordable Care Act. Telephone numbers are: Individuals may call 1-800-318-2596, 24 hours-seven days a week; Businesses seeking information should call 1-800-706-7893, Monday through Friday, from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. The website is: www.healthcare.gov.