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In a near-unanimous vote and for only the second time in its history, the Missouri House of Representatives on Wednesday expelled one of its own.
Rep. Rick Roeber, the Lee’s Summit Republican who a House committee found was credibly accused of sexually and physically abusing his children, was removed from office by a vote of 153 in favor to one present.
House Republican leaders signaled the extraordinary move last week when members rejected Roeber’s attempts to resign as the House Ethics committee investigation into the abuse accusations neared its end.
The bipartisan committee released its report on Monday. It found credible the testimony from Roeber’s ex-wife and three of his four now-adult children: that in the 1990s, an alcoholic Roeber sexually abused two of his children and physically abused all four, frequently beating them with a belt, and at one point drowning several puppies.
On Wednesday, committee chair Travis Fitzwater of Holts Summit said Roeber had disrespected the panel by initially indicating he would challenge the findings, then submitting a resignation letter when news related to the investigation broke.
Roeber, whom the committee described as “combative” and “defiant” in his testimony, accosted Democratic committee members during the investigation to accuse them of orchestrating a political hit against him, Fitzwater said. Roeber has also accused his ex-wife and children of fabricating the claims because “all my children are Democrats,” according to the report.
“You don’t get to walk off on your own terms,” Fitzwater said.
House Speaker Rob Vescovo of Arnold, who has made child welfare issues a top priority of this legislative session, delivered a rare and emotional floor speech supporting expulsion.
“We all understand that the one safe place, the unconditional place, that is the safety net for our children, is their home,” he said. “All that this investigation found was that gentleman from the 34th — the man from the 34th — did everything the opposite of creating that home life.”
He echoed the committee’s findings that the state had failed Roeber’s children, who reported the abuse decades ago.
The Division of Family Services investigated one of the sexual abuse allegations and found probable cause that it occurred. Roeber fought the finding and a state board overturned it for unknown reasons. The committee found a referral had been made to the local prosecutor in 2001 but no charges were filed.
“We are not standing up here today deciding his innocence or guilt, outside of this body. That is for someone else to do,” Vescovo said. “But we are going to police ourselves.”
On Tuesday, Jackson County Prosecutor spokesman Michael Mansur confirmed that the office received a case referral about Roeber in 2001, and declined to prosecute “for reasons related to evidence.”
The committee findings and expulsion are likely to increase pressure on officials to criminally prosecute Roeber, an outcome that Vescovo, Fitzwater and the ethics committee indicated they support.
The pair alerted the prosecutor’s office this month before the report was released, alerting them Roeber still had contact with a minor child.
“At our request, the committee provided transcripts of the investigation,” Mansur said in an email Tuesday. “We have since asked for the full report. This matter is under review and further comment would be inappropriate at this time.”
Allegations of the abuse were reported by The Kansas City Star Editorial Board in September 2020, after Roeber had already run unopposed in the primary for his deceased wife’s 34th District seat.
He went on to win by 301 votes in the general election, and was shortly thereafter booted from the Republican caucus as the incoming House leaders moved to open an Ethics Committee investigation.