First, Gov. Mike Parson announced Dr. Randall Williams resigned as Missouri's health director. He praised Williams' work but also said he requested the resignation. He also refused to release the resignation letter or offer much of an explanation.
Williams himself hasn't commented either. This is the man who appeared regularly with Parson during his COVID-19 briefings throughout the past year. What are Missourians to think?
Parson said he also asked his former chief operating officer, Drew Erdmann, to resign. But, again, no real reason was given.
"We talked about things," Parson said, according to the Missouri Independent. "We thought it was the best thing to do to part ways at this point."
In the absence of official information, people have speculated about Williams' sudden departure.
The Missouri Independent reported Williams' resignation capped a contentious four years as Missouri's top health official, in which he was embroiled in controversy for issues ranging from allegations of conflicts of interest surrounding the state's nascent medical marijuana program to national headlines accusing him of tracking women's menstrual periods.
The governor's office has said Williams' resignation letter is a closed record under the Sunshine Law. The news agency reported Caroline Coulter, the deputy general counsel for the governor's office, said Williams' resignation letter is closed in its entirety.
She cited a section of the Sunshine Law that permits the closure of "individually identifiable personnel records, performance ratings or records pertaining to employees or applicants for employment."
But the Sunshine Law allows some documents to remain closed records; it doesn't require them to be closed. Resignation letters of department heads often have been released to the public in past administrations.
We question whether anything exists in the resignation letter to warrant its closure. But even if the letter should be a closed record, the governor still can — and should — explain his decisions regarding Williams.