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Hall in limbo as Missouri economic development chief

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 1, 2012 - With the clock ticking, the Missouri Senate does not seem ready to act on Gov. Jay Nixon's choice to head up the state's Department of Economic Development.

The Democratic governor tapped attorney Jason Hall a few weeks ago to be his third economic development director, replacing David Kerr.

Hall -- who served as executive director of the Missouri Technology Corporation and as an associate at St. Louis law firm Bryan Cave -- received the nod as the departmentis reeling from the continued controversy over Mamtek.

He also has the backing of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Hall underwent a lengthy hearing on Mondayin a Senate committee that reviews gubernatorial appointments but didn't receive a vote. And Farrah Fite, the spokeswoman for the Senate Majority Caucus, tweeted this morningthat his nomination won't go to the floor today either.

Fite said in an e-mail that Hall's nomination must be approved by Friday because of a constitutional provision that requires approval of appointees within 30 days.

Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, told reporters earlier this week that Hall's appointment would be "complicated."

Asked by a reporter whether Hall was being scrutinized more because of the Mamtek situation, Mayer said "I think there are some legitimate concerns about Mr. Hall and his lack of experience."

At least the last couple of economic development directors had pretty extensive backgrounds in business and industry, as well as government," Mayer said. "There are concerns about his lack of experience and there's concerns and questions about an audit that had been done by [former state Auditor Susan Montee] and some of the comments he made through that process."

Mayer was referring to a scathing 2010 auditthat stated the agency, among other things, didn't "have a conflict of interest policy requiring full public disclosure of actual and potential conflicts ofinterest until June 2009."

Hall could hypothetically be revived if Nixon pulls his name from consideration and submits it later. But Fite said such a move isn't assured.

"In the past, withdrawals have been allowed when simply read into the Senate's journal," Fite said in an e-mail. "The law does not expressively give the governor permission to withdraw an appointment."

Meanwhile, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce released a statement on Mondayurging the Senate to move forward with Hall's nomination. The release cited Hall's work at the MTC of overseeing "several programs that helped to attract science and technology companies to Missouri."

"Jason Hall brings great experience and knowledge to this position and the business community can greatly benefit from his appointment by the Senate," Dan Mehan, the chamber's president and CEO, said in a statement. "We are strongly urging the Senate to confirm Mr. Hall and get Missouri back on track and attracting businesses to our state."

Jason Rosenbaum, a freelance journalist in St. Louis, covers state and local government and politics.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.