House expels area legislator

By Jason Hancock
Missouri Independent

Rick Roeber, a Lee’s Summit Republican accused by his adult children of sexual and physical abuse, was expelled from the Missouri House on Wednesday on a 153-0 vote. One legislator voted “present.” 

Only one member of the Missouri House has ever been expelled before. The charge at that time, in 1865, was disloyalty to the Union.

The Missouri House on April 15refused to accept Republican Rep. Rick Roeber's resignation so the Ethics Committee could fully investigate allegations that he physically and sexually abused his children years ago. . (Tim Bommel/ Missouri House of Representatives via AP)

Wednesday’s vote follows the recommendation by the House Ethics Committee, which asked for Roeber to be expelled following a four-month investigation into allegations that in the early 1990s Roeber sexually abused his children, who at the time were 9 and 5. 

“When this complaint was brought before the committee, I took into account that Rep. Roeber was duly elected,” said Rep. Richard Brown, D-Kansas City and vice chair of the ethics committee. “I asked myself the question, how far back in someone’s background do you go? People change."

“But this wasn’t, ‘did you cheat on your spouse.’ We weren’t investigating if you smoked some weed,” Brown said. “This was child molestation and physical abuse.”

Both Brown and Ethics Committee Chairman Travis Fitzwater, R-Holts Summit, said Wednesday that testimony from four of Roeber’s children and his ex wife was credible — and their story has been consistent for decades. 

The committee found Roeber’s testimony “combative, defensive, defiant” and ultimately not credible. 

In an emotional speech on the House floor Wednesday, House Speaker Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold, railed against Roeber’s assertion during his testimony that his children were accusing him of sexual assault as a “political hit” against him because he’s a Republican.

And he dismissed the notion that Roeber’s alcoholism was an excuse for his behavior.

“Being an alcoholic doesn’t excuse you from any actions taken at home against your children, or any children for that matter,” Vescovo said. “That’s not an excuse to sexually assault your children.”

Roeber ran for the House to replace his second wife, Rebecca, who died in July 2019 four months after an automobile accident on her way to the Missouri Capitol. She was survived by two children and four grandchildren.

Two weeks after her death, Rick Roeber announced he was running for Rebecca’s legislative seat, saying he hoped to see his wife’s legacy continue in Jefferson City.

The allegations of sexual abuse first became public in late September, weeks before he was elected to the Missouri House.

The House Ethics Committee began investigating the allegations in January.

The committee notified Roeber two weeks ago that it planned to recommend expulsion. Roeber indicated he would resign, but days later delivered his written objection to the committee’s findings and requested a formal hearing. 

Roeber reversed course last week, announcing his resignation in a letter to his fellow lawmakers. 

The announcement came shortly after The Independent reported on a letter House Speaker Rob Vescovo wrote to Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker asking her office to help to ensure the safety of a minor child Roeber reportedly has regular weekend visits with. 

The House refused to accept Roeber’s resignation, voting unanimously to allow the ethics committee to finish its report and present it to the chamber.

Fitzwater said Wednesday Roeber has spent the vast majority of his life “avoiding accountability for his part in creating this chaos in his own family.”

Vescovo echoed those concerns.

“I don’t think it is appropriate for him to walk away on his own terms,” Vescovo said Wednesday, “as he has continued to walk away on his own terms his entire life.”