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Economic development appointee faces challenge

Economic development appointee faces challenge

February 1st, 2012 in News

JEFFERSON CITY (AP) - Gov. Jay Nixon's choice to run the Department of Economic Development ran into difficulties Monday winning support from lawmakers.

Senators questioned the governor's nominee, Jason Hall, during a lengthy hearing but took no action toward advancing the appointment to the full Senate. Hall was the executive director of the Missouri Technology Corp. since 2009 before the appointment. The Missouri Technology Corp. is a nonprofit entity with a board partially appointed by the governor and employees who are paid by the state.

Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer said there are concerns about Hall's experience and an audit critical of the Missouri Technology Corp. Mayer said he expects discussion to continue, and the Senate committee responsible for reviewing appointments was scheduled to meet Wednesday.

"His appointment is going to be complicated," said Mayer, R-Dexter. "He had had a long hearing today."

An issue from the audit is an allegation by then-state Auditor Susan Montee, a Democrat, that Hall made political threats against her as her staff worked on the audit and she campaigned for re-election before losing to Republican Tom Schweich. Montee said Hall at one point highlighted he was a "good friend" of Schweich, who has said he knows Hall from previous work at the same law firm but does not consider him a close friend and did not recall speaking with Hall about the audit.

Hall said Monday the audit started before he joined the technology agency and he was unaware of threats.

"Certainly we raised questions, but I don't think, in my opinion, there was anything that came close to threatening," Hall said.

Hall said he supports an economic development plan proposed by Nixon. However, he said he had no opinion on legislative proposals to overhaul Missouri's prevailing wage law and make Missouri a right-to-work state in which it would be illegal to require workers to pay union fees as a condition of employment. Hall said he believes the department needs to be aggressive and boost economic development while protecting taxpayers.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry has urged the Senate to confirm Hall's appointment.