Accountability, transparency vital to Ethics Commission

James Klahr is executive director of the Missouri Ethics Commission.

James Klahr is executive director of the Missouri Ethics Commission. Photo by Julie Smith.

What James Klahr enjoys most about his new position as executive director of the Missouri Ethics Commission is being able to apply the skills and tools he’s gained working in state government for most of his career.

“This is a different experience for me,” said Klahr, who became executive director of the commission nearly six weeks ago.

He said the commission has 21 staff members who are divided into four main areas — legal staff that handles the cases that come in, a business services staff that handles a lot of the reporting, information technology staff and some investigators. It also includes six commissioners appointed by the governor.

“We’ve got a good group of folks who are all working toward making sure that our system is as accountable as it can be and as transparent so that people can see what is out there and make decisions about their public officials based on at least in part what is on our website,” Klahr said.

Klahr said the Ethics Commission has a number of responsibilities, including monitoring campaign reports filed by candidates and committees, monitoring personal financial disclosure reports, regulating lobbying across the state and regulating the area of conflict of interest and nepotism.

“People can file complaints with the Ethics Commission on those types of issues,” Klahr said. “Then we’ve got the ability to investigate those.”

He said the commission doesn’t have criminal authority, but it can refer cases to a local prosecuting attorney to take whatever action he or she might deem appropriate.

Klahr said that as executive director, he’s basically head administrator of the office, making sure staff are working on those cases and also supervising the office.

In the past, he has worked as a legislative liaison for Missouri’s Department of Public Safety, as a legislative liaison for the Missouri Attorney General’s Office and as a staff attorney for Missouri’s Division of Senate Research.

He has a public policy degree from Duke University and a law degree from Emory University.

In addition to his role with the commission, Klahr is also active in the community.

He serves on the foundation board at First United Methodist Church and is a member of the Downtown Jefferson City Rotary Club. In the past, he was a member of the former Capital City Jaycees.

Klahr lives in Jefferson City with his wife, Frances, and two 10-year-old sons, Ryan and Aaron.

Accompanying photo: James Klahr

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