Uncertain future for Missouri curator nominee

The nomination of University of Missouri curator Craig van Matre remains in jeopardy as Gov. Jay Nixon and Republican lawmakers tussle over the Columbia attorney’s appointment.

The Columbia Daily Tribune reported Wednesday that Nixon had sought to withdraw the names of van Matre, curator Pam Henrickson of Jefferson City and several other nominees to various state boards from consideration by a Senate committee.

But that request was rejected by Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, who last year had blocked van Matre’s appointment, to pressure Nixon to appoint a Mayer-supported candidate for another state board.

Henrickson’s obstacle toward confirmation was removed Wednesday and the full Senate concurred later in the day.

Withdrawing the nominations could have allowed Nixon to later re-appoint the two curators and extend the time they could serve without Senate approval until the Legislature adjourns in May. That strategy already happened twice with van Matre, who was initially appointed to the University of Missouri Board of Curators one year ago. His nomination again came under scrutiny last week when senators questioned his views on Republican leadership. He will have to permanently step down if his nomination isn’t approved by early February.

“I don’t understand any of this,” said van Matre, who compared himself to a political pawn.

Van Matre faces another committee meeting on Monday, Mayer said.

Both van Matre and Henrickson continued to serve on the four-campus system’s governing board while lawmakers were not in session last year. On Monday, Nixon’s staff contacted the board secretary, chairman and nominees to inform them van Matre’s and Henrickson’s nominations were being withdrawn. Their names were removed from an online roster of board members.

The dispute comes as Missouri curators prepare to meet next week in Kansas City to consider a possible tuition increase for the 2012-13 academic year. The board typically consists of nine members, plus a nonvoting student representative, but board member Judy Haggard recently resigned for personal reasons.

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