High Court Ousts Moriarty

Article excerpt

In a unanimous opinion Monday, the Missouri Supreme Court convicted Secretary of State Judith K. Moriarty of misconduct and removed her from office.

The court found that Moriarty had backdated paperwork for her son, Timothy Moriarty, when he filed for a state House seat last spring.

"I'm just numb," Moriarty said in an interview in her home in Sedalia Monday evening. Wearing a green sweatsuit, she dabbed her puffy eyes with Kleenex.

"I thought I could get a fair shake from the court but it just didn't happen," she said.

Moriarty criticized the swiftness of the court's decision, which affirmed three articles of impeachment approved by the state House. Her trial ended Friday morning and the court decision came down at 4:30 p.m. Monday.

"They went with the House articles in one (working) day and they did it readily," she said.

After six months of turmoil, this appears to be the end of the road for Moriarty, Missouri's first woman to be secretary of state. Her ouster is immediate and there is no appeal. She is the first statewide official to be removed through impeachment in Missouri's 173-year history.

Gov. Mel Carnahan said the ruling "removes a cloud that has been hanging over the secretary of state's office and the state of Missouri for many months. I am pleased this has finally come to a conclusion."

Attorney General Jay Nixon said Moriarty "certainly had every opportunity to prove her innocence. I just think it's time now for her to recede quietly into the annals of Missouri history."

Carnahan will appoint someone to serve the remaining two years of Moriarty's term.

The governor's spokesman, Chris Sifford, said no one had been chosen but that the governor was likely to make his selection this week.

Interim Secretary of State Dick Hanson says he does not want the permanent appointment. He plans to return to his post as commissioner of administration.

Moriarty, 52, a Democrat, was the surprise winner for the office two years ago. The lone woman in the field of candidates, she spent a mere $16,000 to win the primary. She then edged Republican John Hancock of St. Louis County in the general election. She had been the county clerk in Pettis County for 10 years.

As the state's chief elections official, Moriarty was responsible for the filing of candidates for state offices. The Supreme Court said testimony showed the process was error-filled, and that filings complied with the law "as much by accident as by design."

The investigation into Timothy Moriarty's filing began in mid-June, when former aide Barbara Campbell told investigators that he had filed for office improperly.

Campbell said Timothy Moriarty came to the office on March 21 and filled out preliminary paperwork, but that Judith Moriarty told Campbell to hold the papers.

At the time, Timothy Moriarty was checking to see whether he could become a candidate and keep his state job at the Department of Labor. On March 29, the last day to file, Campbell said Judith Moriarty told Campbell to file Timothy Moriarty, even though he was not present. State law requires candidates to appear in person when they file.

Campbell filed Timothy Moriarty's papers at 1:19 p.m. on March 29. Weeks later, Judith Moriarty ordered Campbell to sign the document, Campbell said. Timothy Moriarty also came to Jefferson City and signed, sometime in May. …