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Kinder's recent hiring decision under attack

October 23, 2001
By: Amanda Joyce
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, criticized the hiring and firing decisions of Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder Tuesday and called for the Republican to either step down or change his tactics.

Jacob, along with other Democratic Caucus leaders, criticized Kinder's performance as President Pro Tem, saying Kinder is filling his staff with highly-paid partisan officials.

"Since January 24 this one individual has been elected Pro Tem and has conducted his actions in such a way that I have completely lost confidence in his ability to do that job," said Jacob.

Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, was chosen for the top position in the Senate in January after the Republicans won a majority of seats for the first time in over 50 years. After becoming his party's leader, Kinder attempted to promote a conciliatory tone among both parties.

"It's not about getting even," Kinder said at the time.

But the tone of mutual respect and compromise that Kinder touted in January has dissipated somewhat, with Jacob questioning what he called "overtly partisan staff additions."

Jacob points to the firing on October 4 of Senate Research Director, David Valentine, as one of many partisan staffing decisions. Jacob said that Valentine was fired for exposing Kinder's supposed plan to stock the Senate staff with partisan officials.

Tuesday's party wrangling began with a Senate Democratic Caucus press release criticizing the hiring of Robert Monsees to Kinder's office staff as Policy Director. In the release, Monsees was described as "a well-known Republican operative."

Monsees will recieve a salary of $57,000 a year. Other Senate office staffers earn between $30,000-40,000 a year -- a difference questioned by Minority Leader Ed Quick, D-Liberty.

Quick said he was concerned about the reasoning behind "adding expensive new positions."

"If the new hire had been made to fill a vacancy crucial to Senate operations, such as the vacant Senate Research Director post, then I would understand," Quick said.

Kinder, though, stands behind his hiring choice and points to Monsees' past work experience in both Democrat and Republican offices.

Kinder added that his office is actively trying to fill the research director position.

"We have a nation-wide search under way," Kinder said. "We will have a bipartisan screening panel that will screen the candidates and recommend three to the Senate Administration Committee that will make the decision on the new hire."

Kinder categorized the attacks as normal power struggles while the Democrats adjust to Republican control of the Senate.

"We have 52 years of democratic control, there's going to some squawking any time a change is made," Kinder added.

"I think these attacks are unwarranted and will be seen as such."