Missouri Department of Corrections Director George Lombardi on Thursday was on his way out after Pitch reporter Karen Dillon exposed the years of loathsome and secretive actions inside his department.
It’s a victory for the people of Missouri, female state prison guards and solid journalism.
But let’s be clear: The next needed outcomes include drastic changes in how the department operates under a new director appointed by Gov. Eric Greitens.
Dillon’s blockbuster stories in late November illustrated that Gov. Jay Nixon, Attorney General Chris Koster and the state legislators paid by taxpayers to keep an eye on Lombardi and his agency had been asleep at the wheel.
As women prison guards were being sexually abused, lawsuits were being filed and won against the state. Dillon in painstaking detail reported that legal settlements and judgments from 2012 through 2016 cost taxpayers a staggering $7.6 million. The department was a train wreck.
After Dillon’s stories were published — while Nixon and Koster shamefully remained mum — a few state officials said they would investigate what was going on.
And on Thursday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that incoming Greitens properly would not keep Lombardi in his job — even after the prison director bald-faced lobbied to keep it.
“We are going to replace him,” Greitens senior adviser Austin Chambers told the newspaper.
In an email Thursday to prison staff, Lombardi had the gall to contend that he and his staff “have evolved this department into a national model that is respected throughout the country.”
What a joke. Here’s as small sliver of what Dillon reported: “Lawsuits, court transcripts and sources indicate that racial and gender epithets at a number of prisons occur daily, and that male employees, including supervisors, have commonly referred to female employees as ‘bitches,’ ‘whores’ and ‘cunts’; have rubbed their groins against female guards, slapped women’s buttocks and commented on their breasts; and have commented about their wives’ and girlfriend’s sexual prowess or lack thereof in front of other employees, including women.”
Dillon gave Lombardi plenty of opportunities to discuss his side of what was going on in the department. He refused to speak to her. Losing his job is sound punishment for that mistake.
House Speaker Todd Richardson, a Poplar Bluff Republican, correctly has backed a joint House and Senate investigation of the department: “Whether Director Lombardi is there or not, our focus is to get to the bottom of what happened.”
Great idea. Lombardi ought to be a key person to testify. The public must find out just how rotten his leadership was.
Missourians also need to be told more about how and why state officials have tried to keep the settlements and payouts secret.
Given the cost to taxpayers of what went on, Greitens and the General Assembly need to hold Lombardi accountable — any way they can.