In these tumultuous times, we can count on a few certainties.

Downtown employees report that the city of St. Joseph still enforces parking meter violations. Business might be ground to a halt, but it takes more than a pandemic to stop the meter maid, apparently.

Tax obligations are postponed but hardly absolved. The Internal Revenue Service pushed back the filing deadline to July 15, but there’s no more Mr. Nice Guy starting on July 16.

Then there’s the unseemly influence of lobbyists in Jefferson City, a festering issue that may have worsened when term limits flooded the state capital with retired lawmakers.

One of those lawmakers is Steve Tilley, a former House speaker who now serves as a state lobbyist and confidant of Missouri Gov. Mike Parson. Tilley certainly landed on his feet, with a growing list of clients, including many in the state’s burgeoning medical marijuana industry.

The Kansas City Star reports that Tilley, a Republican, has become a central figure in FBI inquiries into questionable utility contracts in Independence and the rocky roll-out of medical marijuana licensing.

Tilley’s company lobbies on behalf of Independence Power & Light. He also has multiple clients in the medical marijuana industry, including the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association. That industry group included members who were able to win state licenses to grow and sell marijuana.

As is normally the case, the FBI offers no public comment on the nature of its inquiries. An investigation, in and of itself, does not mean a crime has been committed.

It does fuel a lack of public confidence in the state’s handling of medical marijuana, which voters legalized in the 2018 general election. Already, the state’s effort is beset with lawsuits and questions about inconsistencies in the process for awarding licenses.

Some of this is expected. That state can’t allow medical cannabis on every corner, so some applicants were bound to walk away disappointed. But if the winners happened to be associated with a powerful former state politician, and a third-party entity scores applicants in an oblique grading process, then public confidence is bound to go up in smoke.

It’s not a stretch to suggest that Parson, who has received some criticism for an initial COVID-19 response that defers to local authorities on issues of school closings and limits on public gatherings, has bigger fish to fry at this point in time.

A politician isn’t just judged by the actions he or she takes. It’s also worth noting the company that an elected official keeps.

In this case, Parson would be wise to sever ties with Tilley as this investigation plays out and the state turns its focus to more critical issues.


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