The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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April 12, 2012

Former governor faces charges for illegal donation

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Former Missouri Gov. Roger Wilson has been indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly helping make an illegal, $5,000 political donation after he left office.

Wilson, 63, was a major player in Missouri Democratic politics for decades and served briefly as governor following the death of Mel Carnahan in a plane crash in late 2000.

He was charged along with Edward Griesedieck III, a 53-year-old St. Louis attorney. The indictment issued Wednesday and announced Thursday by the U.S. Attorney’s office in St. Louis says Griesedieck had his law firm donate $5,000 to the Missouri Democratic Party in 2009 and then hid the cost in legal bills submitted to Missouri Employers Mutual Insurance Co., quasi-public firm that provides worker’s compensation insurance and where Wilson was serving as chief executive.

The indictment says Wilson knew about the illegal donation when he approved payment to the law firm.

Wilson did not return messages seeking comment. Griesedieck does not have a listed phone number.

A. Fuller Glaser Jr., a partner in the Griesedieck’s law firm, Herzog Crebs, said Griesedieck and the firm agreed to part earlier this week. The firm itself was not accused of wrongdoing.

“Herzog Crebs regrets the unfortunate misjudgment of its former partner Edward Griesedieck, which was contrary to our values,” Glaser said. “We also regret not having sufficient safeguards in place at the time. We have since strengthened those safeguards to prevent future incidents.”

The allegation is a misdemeanor. If found guilty, Wilson and Griesedieck face up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

Wilson served for more than 20 years as a state senator before being elected lieutenant governor in 1992. He served only months as governor following Carnahan’s death, did not seek election as governor on his own and retired from politics after leaving office in January 2001.

The indictment claims former Missouri Employers Mutual board chairman Douglas Morgan asked Griesedieck to make the donation to the Democratic Party without the knowledge of other board members and requested a contribution for $3,000. Months later, general counsel for the insurance firm questioned the legal billing, and Wilson reimbursed the law firm with his own money, federal prosecutors said.

Wilson was placed on administrative leave by Missouri Employers Mutual in May 2010 and fired without explanation one month later. Neither the company nor Wilson would comment at the time. Jim Owen was named CEO in December.

In a written statement, the insurance firm said it has “completed thorough internal and external, independent investigations that confirmed there have been no other similar incidents.”

The statement said the firm has procedures and oversight “to safeguard against material damage by any board member, executive or employee. The company has been and remains successful, and its future should not be tarnished by charges against individuals that are unrelated to the company’s operation or its fine record as the champion of workers compensation insurance in Missouri.”

Missouri Employers Mutual was created by the state in 1993 to help businesses get workers’ compensation coverage at reasonable rates.

Despite its state affiliation, the company conducted business with little public scrutiny until Wilson’s sudden departure and the federal indictments last year of two former board members. Morgan and Karen Pletz were accused of fraud and embezzlement, respectively, though neither case was connected to Missouri Employers Mutual. Both died before going to trial.

A state audit released in February was critical of Missouri Employers Mutual, saying it avoids federal income taxes by claiming to be a public corporation yet generally operates as a private entity and shells out big bucks for executive perks.

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