Disgraced MO Rep. Rick Roeber calls it quits. Never forget what happened to his kids

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The Kansas City Star Editorial Board
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Disgraced Missouri state Rep. Rick Roeber announced his resignation Tuesday afternoon, just steps ahead of potential ouster proceedings in the House chamber.

Roeber, of Lee’s Summit, had been under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for alleged sexual assault of his now-adult child Anastasia, and physical abuse of Samson Roeber, a sibling.

Gabrielle Galeano, a sister, said she was aware of Roeber’s behavior at the time. All three told The Star Editorial Board of Roeber’s alleged abuse in separate interviews last year.

Roeber has repeatedly denied their allegations. His resignation, effective Friday, speaks volumes.

So does this: Missouri legislative leaders recently wrote Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, urging her office to protect an unnamed minor child who may have been in current contact with Roeber.

“We have learned information that needs to be forwarded to the proper authorities in your jurisdiction,” said House Speaker Rob Vescovo and Ethics Committee Chairman Travis Fitzwater, both Republicans, as is Roeber.

“Given the severity of the allegations raised by Rep. Roeber’s children, we are concerned for the safety of this minor child,” the letter said. It was first reported by the Missouri Independent.

Baker responded by promising to discuss the matter with law enforcement authorities, the news outlet reported. She will also look for potential criminal liability.

In a statement Tuesday, Vescovo and Fitzwater said the House will discuss options with law enforcement.

The Ethics Committee heard from Anastasia, Gabrielle and Samson during the course of its investigation. Its members found the three siblings highly credible, as we did. The warning to the Jackson County prosecutor reinforces that judgment.

“The House Ethics Committee did exemplary work in investigating the troubling allegations made by his children and found them to be credible,” Vescovo’s and Fitzwater’s statement said.

“For far too long his children were ignored and the abuses they suffered were swept under the rug,” they added. “We cannot allow him to once again walk away from the children he victimized.”

A person close to the adult children said Tuesday they were gratified by Roeber’s resignation, which spares them any ugly debates on the floor of the Missouri House. The vacated seat will be filled through a special election, likely later this year.

Roeber, of course, refused to concede any of this in his resignation letter, or to offer any apology at all to the people of his district, his colleagues in the legislature, or — most important — to his adult children, or his former spouse.

Instead, Roeber said he was moving away. “It has become necessary for me and my soon to be wife to relocate out-of-state to be closer to our extended families,” he wrote.

We hope Roeber will, at some point, recognize the hurt he has caused his family.

And let’s be clear: Missouri must reexamine the way this episode was addressed. The alleged sexual abuse took place in 1990. In 2001, the Jackson County Division of Family Services found “probable cause” that “sexual maltreatment” of a fourth sibling had taken place.

That finding was later overturned by a state board for reasons that remain publicly obscure.

Claims of physical abuse also fell off the radar. Roeber “was never held accountable nor exonerated, as he says, for the physical abuse we all endured or the sexual abuse of Anastasia,” the three children wrote Vescovo last November.

Missouri lawmakers should spend some time getting to the bottom of Roeber’s behavior, and the state’s reaction to it. Who knows how many other children are suffering from similar behavior now?

Indeed, while it is tempting to say the system worked here, it would be wrong. It took decades for Roeber to face even limited consequences for his actions. Never forget: Roeber is resigning because his adult children had the courage to step forward and tell their stories, in clear, unmistakable voices, despite the risk of criticism and public exposure.

They deserve our thanks, and our thoughts. The system must be better.