Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s office released a report late Monday detailing why and how it sought to remove former St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner, who resigned during the quo warranto proceedings on May 16, two hours before a hearing that may have resulted in an order to turn over documents.
The report revealed little new information, instead presenting a timeline of allegations against Gardner, which include not charging even felony offenses, causing the dismissal of serious charges by not showing up to court hearings, giving the Vera Institute of Justice undue influence over charging decisions, inadequately communicating with crime victims, and not devoting her time to her elected role but instead pursuing an advanced nursing degree.
While the report has no direct consequences, the Attorney General’s Office said it aimed to document and make public the investigation and quo warranto proceedings, as the public has a right to know what happened. But Bailey also made several recommendations on how the state legislature might use lessons from this process to update certain laws, hindering elected prosecutors from delaying quo warranto proceedings.
“If a prosecutor is not a usurper, he or she should be permitted to return to his or her duties as quickly as possible for the sake of public safety; but if a prosecutor is a usurper, he or she should not hold that office even one day longer than is necessary to resolve the quo warranto proceedings,” the report said.
Gardner engaged in tactics designed to delay the case, including objecting to every discovery request made of her, the CAO and its current and former employees, Bailey’s report claimed. In quo warranto actions against a prosecutor, some objections should not be entertained, he argued. For example, an attorney general — representing the state — should have access to criminal case files belonging to a circuit attorney’s office, since it also represents the state in those matters. The General Assembly could create legislation to clearly grant the attorney general access to such files, the report said.
Bailey also suggested that action should be taken to prevent a repeat of the way Gardner caused “undue delay” by moving to dismiss the amended petition in quo warranto and then, after 59 days, moving to change the judge.
Specifically, the report included suggestions to amend Civil Rules of Procedure Rule 98 to include language about time limits for things such as seeking a change of judge or allowing judges to set time limits for procedures that would defeat the purpose of the writ.
While Bailey was pleased that Gardner resigned, he is concerned that she could again seek elected office. He suggested legislation to render a person ineligible to run for a particular public office after being removed from that office by a quo warranto or after resigning while quo warranto proceedings are pending.
Gardner’s partnership with the Vera Institute may have given that organization undue influence over charging decisions, Bailey argued, but state laws do not specifically address undue influence over decisions not to prosecute. That could also be considered by the legislature, the report said.
Gabriel Gore was sworn in as St. Louis Circuit Attorney on May 31. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch found that the office filed more than 1,400 cases during his first three months in office. During the same period last year, Gardner’s office filed about 620.
Gardner and her attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.