Missouri Gaming Commission Director Quits, Tensions Revealed with Highway Patrol

Posted on: April 3, 2020, 12:09h. 

Last updated on: April 3, 2020, 12:56h.

David Grothaus is leaving his job next month as executive director of the Missouri Gaming Commission after reportedly getting into a dispute with members of the state’s Highway Patrol.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has shuttered the state’s casinos because of the pandemic. But a dispute was revealed this week between outgoing Gaming Commission Director David Grothaus and the Highway Patrol (Image: Fox2)

On Friday, state officials confirmed the resignation to Casino.org. But the reason is being kept quiet because of confidentiality rules.

Yes, David Grothaus is stepping down effective May 1, 2020,” LeAnn McCarthy, public information coordinator at the Missouri Gaming Commission, told Casino.org in an email. “His retirement letter is identified as a closed personnel record….”

The Missouri Department of Public Safety, the parent department for both the highway patrol and the gaming commission, also issued a statement to Casino.org.

“For more than 25 years, the Missouri Gaming Commission and the Missouri State Highway Patrol have partnered to keep crime out of the gaming industry and ensure casino customer safety. DPS is committed to assisting in that mission and has complete confidence in both the Missouri Gaming Commission and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.”

But in an exclusive report, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch revealed Grothaus said in a resignation letter Monday that some members of the highway patrol assigned to the state’s 13 casinos undertook “guerrilla warfare” to block his attempts to replace them with civilians who get a lower salary.

“It now seems that there is more interest in protecting the assignments of highway patrol officers than in ensuring a sound, proactive, technically competent, top-notch regulatory MGC effort,” Grothaus claims in the correspondence published by the Post-Dispatch.

It has become obvious that the direction of the commission under my leadership is incompatible with the vision of certain commissioners,” Grothaus added.

Grothaus was attempting to make the agency “more efficient and accountable,” as requested by Gov. Mike Parson, the Post-Dispatch said. Grothaus also complains the agency is “fraught with much waste because of a bloated patrol gaming division and the use of highly paid law enforcement officers in positions more suited for civilian technicians.”

Patrol officers earn higher fringe benefits than civilians. The officers are also given “excessive vehicle expenditures that are not needed for the job they perform,” Grothaus said.

“I sense that much of the criticism of my management is in direct response to my effort to seek accountability for these expenses,” Grothaus writes in the letter.

Grothaus Had Job for a Year

Last March, Grothaus started the $128,000 a year job. He was the commission’s seventh executive director.

Grothaus has an extensive background in law enforcement and was a state highway patrol officer. He also was a supervisory agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives.

He served in the Army and Air Force from 1976 until 2017. Altogether, he has worked in the field for 44 years.

Commission Chairman Mike Leara confirmed to the Post-Dispatch the highway patrol and commission officials were sometimes at odds.

“There was tension there. I don’t know who’s to blame,” Leara said. “There’s differences of opinions all over the place.”

“I just think the executive director had a different view of the direction of the commission,” Leara further told the newspaper. “I think he had some very valid concerns.”

“I think some of those will be addressed in the future. But we’ve got to get through this coronavirus issue first.”

Separate Letter to Commission Employees

In a letter to the Missouri Gaming Commission employees, Grothaus added, “I have had a full career and MGC has been a great way to end it.”

“I have many more important things in my life that need attention — and the pandemic and other things have made me realize that I need to refocus my energy to higher level goals,” he added.

Last month, Gov. Parson initially ordered the state’s 13 licensed casinos to close. The state extended its order closing the Missouri’s casinos through April 6.

As of Friday, there were 1,834 COVID-19 cases in Missouri. Nineteen were fatal.