Moriarty Is Impeached Secretary of State Will Fight Removal

Article excerpt

The House voted overwhelmingly Thursday to impeach Secretary of State Judith K. Moriarty for misconduct that "breached the public trust."

The move, the first impeachment in Missouri in 26 years, came at 4:25 p.m. in a hushed House chamber. With a solemn Moriarty looking on, legislators pressed their voting buttons and watched the roll-call boards light up with green "yes" votes.

The key vote to impeach - the first to pass - was 103-42. Two other impeachment articles passed by similar margins. The House defeated three other proposed articles of impeachment.

Afterward, Moriarty said she had no plans to step down and would challenge Gov. Mel Carnahan's authority to suspend her. "I'm going to take the last step in the road" - a trial in the Missouri Supreme Court, she said.

Moriarty blamed the House vote on "political pressure" from Carnahan and House Speaker Bob F. Griffin, fellow Democrats. "This whole process is political," she said.

Carnahan said he believed the office was "legally vacated," but since Moriarty is not leaving, Attorney General Jay Nixon will ask the Missouri Supreme Court today to suspend her.

"We are going to try not to be confrontational," Carnahan said. "I take no pleasure in what happened. What the House did today was the only thing it could do under the circumstances."

Under state law, the governor must appoint someone to run the office temporarily until the Supreme Court decides whether to oust Moriarty. Carnahan said he has picked someone but will not identify that person until Moriarty leaves. Rising Above `Partisan Politics'

Griffin commended the House for rising above "partisan politics to deal with this very serious and important issue. I don't think anybody can seriously question the fairness" of the House proceeding.

Moriarty, 52, won her office in the Democratic sweep of November 1992. She had been considered the underdog because of her lack of funds and name recognition. In the general election, she got 1,140,424 votes to former Rep. John Hancock's 1,107,701.

Moriarty had served as the Pettis County clerk, in Sedalia, for 10 years. She is the first woman elected Missouri's secretary of state.

In all, the House approved three articles of impeachment and defeated three others on Thursday. The approved articles allege that Moriarty directed her son, Timothy Moriarty, and aide Barbara Campbell to sign Timothy Moriarty's declaration of candidacy for the state House weeks after the filing deadline. The articles passed by votes of 103-42, 104-41 and 103-40.

The defeated articles either called Moriarty's actions a crime or alleged that she also directed that her son's candidacy be filed on March 29, even though he was not present. Those articles failed by 62-88, 52-88 and 57-85.

Rep. Gary Witt, D-Platte City, chairman of the special impeachment committee, said the House need not apologize for its decision. "We are not ruining (Moriarty's) life," Witt said. "Judi Moriarty ruined her life when she ordered these signatures to be placed on this document. Judi Moriarty did not do her job under the constitution of Missouri."

Summarizing the evidence from more than a dozen witnesses, Witt said: "If Judi Moriarty is telling the truth, then almost everyone else has to be lying." `A Paper Shuffle'

Moriarty said she did not get a fair hearing from the House committee. She contended that Witt "believed I should be impeached before he heard any testimony."

She called the problems with her son's filing "a paper shuffle" and asked about the House members: "Have any of them ever signed something a day later?"

Some legislators agreed, saying Moriarty was being punished for a minor infraction. …