House Speaker defends investigative committee's secrecy

House Speaker Todd Richardson speaks to reporters Thursday after lawmakers wrapped up their work for the week. Richardson said the panel investigating Gov. Eric Greitens needs to be able to close its hearings to protect witness privacy. (Garrett Bergquist/KRCG 13)

House Speaker Todd Richardson on Thursday said the limited access to the panel investigating Gov. Eric Greitens is key to preserving the investigation's integrity.

Richardson told reporters he was not surprised by the committee's decision to move its hearings from the Capitol to the Jefferson City Police Department. He said the committee's ability to close its meetings to the public is necessary to protect witness confidentiality and ensure fairness. Richardson's comments came a few hours before the committee announced a second hearing would be held at the same location. He said the move to JCPD headquarters is as much about freeing up meeting space as it is about protecting witnesses.

"As much as anything, it was to make sure that the substantive business that we're doing could be conducted without this being something that overwhelms the basement of the Capitol," he said.

The panel is investigating the accusations against the governor of felony invasion of privacy. Greitens is suspected of taking a nude or semi-nude photo of his mistress during a 2015 encounter and threatening to use it against her. He has admitted to an affair but denies any criminal wrongdoing. A St. Louis grand jury indicted the governor last month.

The investigative committee has until early April to complete its work. It can ask Richardson for more time if necessary.

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