Parson’s general counsel temporarily takes over CAO, replacement expected by Friday

Published: May. 17, 2023 at 5:52 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) --Following St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s sudden resignation, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is trying to find a permanent successor to lead the Circuit Attorney’s Office and he met with staff Wednesday trying to reassure them about the transition.

Gardner quit on Tuesday, two weeks earlier than she originally planned.

Parson held a staff meeting Wednesday where he reiterated that he plans to appoint Gardner’s successor by Friday.

Initially, the governor said Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s Office would take over temporarily until he appoints someone, but late Tuesday Evan Rodriguez was sworn in as the interim St. Louis Circuit Attorney. Rodriguez is part of the governor’s general counsel.

News 4 Investigates saw multiple attorneys going in and out of court and observing hearings.

“We know that the office there, the prosecutor’s office is definitely going to need some major changes when somebody walks in there, so the main thing we want to make sure is we have the resources available for whoever that pick is that we can do that on day one,” Parson told reporters during a news briefing Tuesday.

Gardner’s early exit surprised many, but it is now clear she had been making plans for her departure.

News 4 Investigates obtained a copy of a handwritten memo Gardner sent to the court the day before she resigned. In the memo, Gardner asked the court to appoint St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell as the “transition manager.” Presiding Judge Elizabeth Hogan never signed off on the memo.

On Tuesday Gardner released a statement announcing her resignation. In the statement, Gardner said Bell was “part of a transition plan” and “any inquiries about ongoing cases can be directed to St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.”

There were questions if Bell could legally act as a transition manager in the office since Missouri state law requires the circuit attorney to “devote their entire time and energy to the discharge of their official duties.”

The governor said he was not brought into conversations about Bell taking on the transition. He decided to go in a different direction.

“Kim Gardner resigned, as governor of this state my job is to select the next person. That is the process that we go through,” Parson said.