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'It's not over': Missouri AG vows to seek immediate removal of St. Louis circuit attorney

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey wants St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner out of office immediately.

ST. LOUIS — Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey says even though St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner has announced she is resigning June 1, that doesn’t mean it’s "game over" for his legal battles to remove her immediately and uncover whether she’s guilty of any criminal conduct.

“She needs to be out of office now so the rebuilding process can begin, so we can restore the rule of law and start finding justice for victims,” he said to 5 On Your Side during a one-on-one interview Friday. “We're going to continue with our case until such time as she's out of office and a court dismisses the case.

“We're going to continue to seek discovery in this matter. We're going to fine-tune some of the discovery request. We're going to continue taking depositions. And so depending upon what we find in the evidence, we can ask for additional sanctions. Depending upon her refusal to turn over the records we've requested, there could be additional sanctions there as well. And so the process continues.” 

Bailey filed what’s known as a quo warranto petition against Gardner in February to remove her from office, accusing her of willfully neglecting a multitude of her duties including issuing and reviewing cases as well as keeping victims informed.

Gardner’s attorneys have denied the Circuit Attorney’s Office is guilty of any of the charges against it, and, even if it were, Gardner can’t be held liable for what her subordinates do. Gardner has also argued in legal filings it is her prerogative to run her office as she pleases and the Attorney General cannot remove her simply because he doesn’t agree.

Gardner’s staff members told reporters Thursday she would be available for comments Friday. Gardner made comments during a live stream on a Facebook page surrounded by her supporters.

Gardner’s spokeswoman has not yet responded to a request for comment regarding Bailey’s vow to continue his case against her, along with questions from 5 On Your Side about why she selected June 1 to resign.

In a letter addressed “To the people” Gardner released Thursday, she said she was resigning to block a bill from going through the legislature that she believes will take away the city’s right to elect its prosecutor.

Bailey said he was not part of any deals Senate Democrats struck with Gardner. Bailey is a Republican, and was appointed by Republican Gov. Mike Parson to replace now-Senator Eric Schmitt.

He says he hopes the state legislature will still pass a bill that would prevent her from running again.

“If you were either removed under a quo warranto action or resigned in the face of a quo warranto, you should not be allowed to run for public office again,” Bailey said.

The resignation announcement also does not mean Gardner can ignore the Attorney General’s subpoenas. A judge gave her 30 days to comply with those requests for thousands of documents – a deadline she will have to meet before her resignation date. 

“It's not over, we're going to use every legal recourse at our disposal to make sure she's held accountable, and that's why I can't dismiss the quo until such time as a court dismisses it,” Bailey said. “But we're going to keep gathering evidence and we're going to keep looking into this matter, because if there's additional liability out there, we need to know about it.

“She's now under order from the judge to disclose certain evidence that I'm certain she doesn't want us to look at. And she's delaying further by trying to get outside of the legislative session that ends next week by delaying her resignation until June 1st. If things are as bad in her office as the court has opined they are, she needs to go now. There is no reason for her to stick around until June 1st. There would be more damage to public safety in that period of time.”

Also among the subpoenas Bailey expects to be filled are those he served to St. Louis University’s School of Nursing. He’s seeking records to show how much time Gardner has been spending in classes there. Bailey says the state statute requires the Circuit Attorney to devote their “entire” time in office to the office alone.

“The taxpayers in the City of St. Louis were paying her to do a job that she clearly was not doing because she was doing something else, and we need to see where those two things overlap and that'll determine the path forward on that issue,” Bailey said.

Meanwhile, there are more than a dozen trials scheduled in the coming weeks that are still assigned to prosecutors who no longer work for Gardner’s office. The presiding judge has asked Gardner to tell the judiciary which prosecutors will be trying the cases and Gardner has not done so.

Two judges have already held hearings to issue contempt charges against her and her office for not showing up to trials – one of those hearings led to indirect criminal contempt proceedings. That hearing is scheduled for May 30, and Judge Michael Noble has not dismissed that case.

Bailey says what happens in the next few weeks in court could impact his lawsuit to remove her, too.

“As long as the quo is filed and has not been dismissed, the Court retains personal jurisdiction over Kim Gardner and subject matter jurisdiction over the removal proceeding,” Bailey said. “And so the full spectrum of options are available to the Court.

Gardner’s legal team asked for a new judge to oversee Bailey’s lawsuit against her. Judge Thomas Chapman was appointed Wednesday.

“If there were other instances of the Circuit Attorney’s refusal to show up for murder trials, for first-degree assault trials, and there are additional show cause orders issued, those become relevant in the quo warranto proceeding,” Bailey said. “The Court can take judicial notice of proceedings inside the circuit and certainly recognize and be cognizant to what's going on in parallel cases.”

It is the governor’s job to appoint a replacement for Gardner. 5 On Your Side has confirmed with multiple sources close to the negotiations that Noble and criminal defense attorney Raphael Morris are among the contenders. Missouri Sen. Steve Roberts told 5 On Your Side Friday no one has approached him about the job, but that he would be “interested,” if someone did.

Parson’s spokeswoman Kelli Jones told 5 On Your Side Friday the governor intends to have a replacement in place by June 1.

“Our goal is to have this person remain in place until the next election,” Jones said.  

Bailey said whoever comes into that office next has an “enormous challenge” ahead of them.

“It took six years or more to get us into this, the state where we are today,” he said. “We know there's an eight-month backlog of warrant referrals.

“We know that there were thousands of cases that have been dismissed. We know there are pending jury trials that are going to require immediate attention. So there's a lot of work to do. And whoever assumes that position is really going to have to step up to that challenge. And I know that there are resources available to assist and people want the Circuit Attorney or whoever is appointed to be Circuit Attorney to be successful in enforcing the rule of law and finding justice for victims.”

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