Missouri Gov. Mike Parson showed Dr. Randall Williams, the state’s top health official and the highest-profile member of his cabinet, the door this week.
Parson called Williams “a huge asset to Missouri” in a written statement announcing his resignation. Later in the week, Parson clarified it was a forced resignation, acknowledging it was in the best interest for the governor’s office that “we go in different directions.”
Cabinet shake-ups are nothing new in politics; they happen all the time.
But there is no shading that Williams was a lightning rod for Parson’s administration — and not just in his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many wondered what took Parson so long to make a change.
Williams definitely proved to be an expensive asset for Missouri. His actions cost taxpayers a lot of dough.
He led the rocky rollout of the state’s medical marijuana program, which has been described as “a disaster” by lawmakers investigating allegations of conflicts of interest and other improprieties in the awarding of licenses.
The state has spent millions defending lawsuits brought by those who were denied licenses and who claim the application process was seriously bungled and subject to inside dealing. It will likely spend millions more trying to finally resolve legal claims around the flawed rollout and implementation of the program.
Williams oversaw a department that was found to have violated the Sunshine Law multiple times. Just this month, the department was ordered to pay nearly $138,000 in legal fees after an appeals court found it had “knowingly and purposefully” violated the law, according to The Missouri Independent.
The former health director made national news and raised eyebrows in 2019 when it was reported he had attempted to track the menstrual cycles of women who had visited Planned Parenthood, without their knowledge or consent, in order to identify those who had undergone failed abortions.
No doubt there is more to Williams’ departure than what was revealed publicly. But few would argue that his tenure in Missouri state government was tumultuous.