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Former Mo. Democratic Party chairman named to board of troubled state agency

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 7, 2009 - John Temporiti, who recently stepped down as chairman of the Missouri Democratic Party and is close to Gov. Jay Nixon and St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, has been tapped by the governor to join him on the troubled Missouri Housing Development Commission.

Temporiti's appointment, announced Tuesday, comes just weeks after state Auditor Susan Montee issued an audit sharply critical of the agency's practices and policies, including the way it doles out contracts and tax credits for low-income housing projects. The commission is also believed to be the target of an FBI probe.

(Montee's audit had reported that two of the commission's top executives had been reimbursed more than $20,000 for legal expenses related to the federal inquiry.)

Temporiti, 60, said in an interview that he hoped to use his earlier corporate expertise as executive vice president of UniGroup and president/chief executive of Mayflower Van Lines.

"I'll have an eye at maximizing and leveraging available dollars to help the citizens of this state,'' Temporiti said.

The Missouri Republican Party saw Temporiti's selection a bit differently, calling him the latest example of Nixon "appointing moneyed insiders with plum government positions."

The party called on Nixon to withdraw Temporiti's appointment.

“Temporiti ... has solicited extraordinary amounts of money from the same politically influential developers he will work with every day at the MHDC,'' the GOP asserted. "Nixon’s appointment of Temporiti proves his lack of commitment to cleaning up the MHDC, an agency so rife with conflicts of interest and cozy relationships that it has been the target of an FBI investigation."

Temporiti declined comment about the GOP jabs, and said his focus would be simply on helping the commission fulfill its role in aiding the development of low-income housing.

If confirmed by the Senate, Temporiti will serve until October 2012.

The commission's members include the governor and several other statewide officials, as well as political appointees. State Treasurer Clint Zweifel is the new commission chairman and has called for improvements in line with Montee's findings.

Some Democrats have sought to tie the commission's troubles to the administration of former Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican.

Among other things, Montee's audit had criticized the commission because its "Standards of Conduct policy does not require commissioners and employees in positions with significant decision making capacity to publicly disclose actual and potential conflicts of interest and/or situations which could present the appearance of a conflict of interest.

"Commissioners are not required to recuse themselves in situations involving actual/potential conflicts of interest," her findings continued. "We identified two commissioners who appeared to have at least the appearance of conflicts of interest, but did not recuse themselves from decision making or actions relevant to the parties involved in the potential conflict."

The upshot, said Montee at last month's news conference: "The perception is clearly out there that there is a system that encourages campaign contributions in return for projects."

An earlier audit of the commission's Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program had concluded that "a perception exists that political influence and campaign contributions to elected officials on the commission influenced the project selection process. In addition, soliciting donations for conference expenses from entities doing business with the MHDC gives the appearance of, and may result in, potential conflicts of interest...."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.