JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Don Kauerauf has resigned as director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, just days before a deadline to be confirmed to the post.
Governor Mike Parson said Tuesday afternoon that he accepted Kauerauf’s resignation.
Anti-vaxxers and those against mask mandates opposed Kauerauf’s appointment. A group rallied in the state Capitol on Monday to voice their discontent ahead of a Senate confirmation hearing.
Parson chose Kauerauf to lead the department starting Sept. 1, 2021, but the Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee had until Friday to approve that appointment.
Missouri lawmakers will be off the rest of the week due to winter weather, but before they left, they failed to approve Kauerauf’s nomination, essentially blocking the confirmation.
The General Assembly left earlier than normal Tuesday to beat the snowstorm. The House gaveled in and out in less than 30 minutes, canceling some afternoon hearings. Over in the Senate, members were on a deadline to approve Kauerauf’s appointment by Friday as the DHSS director.
“It does not appear at this point that the Senate is going to return that nomination to the governor,” Sen. Bill Eigel (R-Weldon Spring) said on the floor Tuesday.
Senators approved more than a dozen other appointees before they adjourned Tuesday afternoon, but not Kauerauf.
Without a confirmation vote, Kauerauf would have been a lame-duck director until Friday, when he would have been formally ousted.
Kauerauf took over the DHSS after Dr. Randall Williams was asked to resign in April 2021. Since being appointed, Kauerauf has reiterated multiple times that he’s against mandates but for masking and the vaccine to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“Because of what he said and his responses, I’ll just have to tell you I’m opposed to his confirmation,” Sen. Mike Moon (R-Ash Grove) said.
Moon questioned Kauerauf multiple times during Monday’s three-hour Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee meeting.
“I did this because I believe there were a thousand people who contacted me through text, by email, and many by phone because they were concerned,” Moon said.
Just hours before the hearing Monday, more than 150 people gathered in the rotunda to voice their concerns about Kauerauf, who previously served as the assistant director for the Illinois Department of Public Health until 2018 and retired Dec. 31, 2018, until his new role in Missouri.
Outside the committee room Monday, demonstrators held up signs saying, “If Kauerauf stays, then Parson goes,” and falsely accused Kauerauf of supporting mandates.
Moon held the Senate floor for nearly three hours Tuesday as members were waiting to adjourn to receive the green light to head home in hopes of beating the snow.
“It’s sad, for whatever that’s worth. It’s sad,” Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo (D-Independence) said. “I don’t believe that he will come back. I don’t believe there will be a reappointment or another attempt in bringing him back.”
Rizzo is concerned about what this means for the state and Missouri’s health department going forward.
“It’s a shame we’re in the middle of a pandemic right now and we have no health director,” Rizzo said. “I worry about the quality of the person you’re going to get that’s willing to go through that treachery to serve the State of Missouri, especially when they can be in the private sector and make a lot more money.”
Parson released a statement Monday during the hearing, standing up for Kauerauf. He accused members of his own party of political grandstanding and spreading misinformation.
On Tuesday, the governor unleashed a tirade on social media, calling the events surrounding the confirmation process shameful.
“The events that have transpired over the past few days surrounding Don’s Senate confirmation hearing are nothing short of disgraceful, unquestionably wrong, and an embarrassment to this state and the people we serve,” Parson said on Twitter.
The governor also accused members of the state senate of thinking more about “political gain than the harm caused to Don and his family.”
In the meantime, Parson appointed Richard Moore to act as interim director of DHSS.