Hagler replaced as director Mo. agriculture agency - KMOV.com

Hagler replaced as director Mo. agriculture agency

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By Brendan Marks By Brendan Marks

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Gov. Jay Nixon abruptly replaced the director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture on Friday, a day after another high-ranking employee resigned from the agency while citing a hostile work environment. The announcement by the governor included no explanation for why Jon Hagler was replaced as agriculture director. Hagler had served in the post since Nixon became governor in 2009.

On Thursday, Beth Ewers, the agency's associate director of meat and poultry inspection, resigned while distributing a letter to department employees and others outside the agency. Ewers wrote that she was tired of "working in an environment of hostility, disrespect, intimidation and fear."

Spokeswomen for Nixon and the Department of Agriculture did not respond to messages Friday seeking comment.

Nixon said Harry Bozoian immediately took over as acting agriculture director. Bozoian had been the deputy director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. He also served as an assistant attorney general under Nixon from 1993-2008, working in the office's environmental and agricultural division.

The governor's office said Hagler will remain at the Agriculture Department through Oct. 31 to assist in the transition. Nixon's news release did not say in what capacity Hagler would be working.

Nixon described Hagler as "a trusted friend and advisor for many years."

"During his tenure, Jon helped make the Missouri Department of Agriculture more efficient and effective, and played a vital role helping the agricultural community respond and recover from last year's unprecedented drought," Nixon said in a written statement.

Ewers said in her letter that her last working day was Friday, though her early retirement will not take effect until Oct. 31.

She wrote that Hagler, whom she referred to as the "MDA Director," had belittled her in a recent staff meeting and had repeatedly threatened to fire her.

"Firing has become a common threat that is leveled toward anyone who disagrees with the MDA administration or makes an unintentional mistake at this department," Ewers wrote.

She also wrote that a Department of Agriculture laboratory in Springfield had shared a business' private testing results with the state meat and poultry inspection program. Ewers described that as a "breach of privacy," but she said she was scolded by superiors for pointing it out.

Ewers did not immediately respond to messages Friday seeking further comment.

Hagler had been married to state Rep. Linda Black, D-Desloge. But Black said Friday that the couple finalized their divorce on Monday, adding: "It's just a simple case of things did not work out."

Black said she had no information about why Hagler was replaced as department director.

It marks the second time in recent years that a Missouri agriculture director has been removed from his duties.

Agriculture Director Fred Ferrell was forced to resign in February 2007 by then-Gov. Matt Blunt after a sexual harassment lawsuit was filed against him. Ferrell had been placed on paid leave in May 2006 during an internal investigation but then reinstated by Blunt without any public explanation of the allegations against him. The state eventually paid $82,500 to settle the harassment claims brought by an agriculture department employee.

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