Randall Williams is out.
That is a good thing for Missouri.
We have called for his removal as director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services before, believing he was not the right person to have at the helm, particularly during a pandemic that infected nearly 600,000 Missourians and killed more than 9,300.
Williams found his own problems on any number of issues, but our concern was the agency’s lack of transparency and the difficulty getting records and answers under his leadership that proved a challenge not just for the media and the public but for lawmakers as well. Some of that came to the surface last month when state Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, wondered publicly about the difficulties he had getting the Department of Health and Senior Services to provide even a date when it would respond to a weeks-old request for information about vaccine distribution.
State Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage, called the delays “unacceptable,” indicating there was bipartisan frustration.
“We need information to make timely decisions, and we need it as soon as it can be provided,” Smith said. “What we are doing is also very important, and we expect timely responses from all departments to all members of the General Assembly. Full stop.”
There were multiple violations of the Sunshine Law, and most recently, DHSS had to pay $138,000 in legal fees and a $12,000 fine for “knowingly” and “purposefully” violating the Sunshine Law.
No reason has been given for Williams’ departure, and in the end, maybe that’s not important.
What is important is that Gov. Mike Parson take this opportunity to find a leader who is first and foremost public-minded and who understands and vows to be transparent with Missourians. Parson should ensure the new director is held to that standard.
“I think you’ll see that whole department, that whole agency, be rebuilt,” Parson promised this week.
This is moment to rehabilitate DHSS, and we urge Parson to seize it to restore the credibility of the agency.