By Annika Merrilees, Columbia Missourian

A special session of the Missouri legislature will begin later this month to decide whether to discipline Governor Eric Greitens for the misconduct detailed in reports released by the House Investigative Committee.

“This path is not the one that I would have chosen for Missourians or my colleagues. I had hoped from the beginning of this process that the committee would find no wrongdoing,” Todd Richardson, speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives, said.

“Unfortunately, this is where the facts led.”

The legislature will be charged with considering the recommendations the investigative committee will make, the most serious of which would be impeachment.

The special session will begin immediately after the regular session ends on May 18 and will give the committee time to “investigate and collect relevant information surrounding the conduct of Governor Greitens,” Richardson said.

At a press conference following the May 3 session, Republican leaders said more than 80 percent of lawmakers, 138 representatives and 29 senators, had signed the petition to enact a special session. They only needed 123 in the House and 26 in the Senate.

For the first portion of the session, the investigative committee is expected to continue its work, Richardson said. The session is limited to 30 days.

“The House and the Senate agree that the committee should have the time it needs to conduct a fair, thorough and timely investigation,” Richardson said.

In addition to the House investigation, the governor faces two felony charges. One involves allegations made by Greitens’ former hairdresser that he sexually and physically abused her in 2015. The other involves reported misuse of a donor list taken from a nonprofit Greitens ran that was used to raise funds for his campaign. In response to criticism from Greitens’ team that the investigative committee has only heard from one side, Richardson said, “the committee has made itself available for any witness the governor wanted to produce, to take testimony from the governor, to review any documents.”

The petition was delivered to the Secretary of State’s office a little after 7 pm, May 3.

If the process leads the House to vote for impeachment, the Senate would then select a panel of seven “jurists” to hear the case. Ron Richard, president pro tem of the Senate, said they have not begun the process of vetting judges to appoint to such a panel.

This is the first time the legislature has called itself into a special session in Missouri’s history. All previous special sessions have been called by a governor.

Despite the controversy, Richardson said the session “has quietly turned into one of the most successful sessions of my time.”

The House Democrats had been holding out from signing the petition because they wanted the issue to be dealt with immediately instead of delayed to a special session. With time growing short, they signed this week.

“No one takes pleasure in this, but I think it is something that we absolutely have to do,” House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, said. “My constituents want to know why we haven’t done something already.”

Representative Sara Walsh, R-Ashland, who was among those signing the petition, said in a statement the process of calling for a special session is available “to ensure we have time to review all the facts” and that “the House collectively will take action based upon the evidence.”

Representative Cheri Toalson Reisch, R-Hallsville, also signed the petition and said the special session will give the committee time to finish its work.

“Despite media reports that this will be a special session to impeach, that is improper and premature,” Toalson Reisch said in a statement. “I have worked in the judicial system for 36 years, and as such, I believe in due process, until all sides have had the opportunity to be heard, along with all facts and evidence presented.”

Representative Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, signed the petition, but declined to comment.