Kim Gardner Is Enrolled in a Graduate Nursing Program Even as Staffers Abandon Ship

The St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s spokesperson wouldn’t share details about the program or the time commitment

May 3, 2023 at 11:26 am
click to enlarge St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner heads to court in April 2023.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner heads to court in April 2023.

Embattled St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner is currently enrolled in an advanced nursing program at St. Louis University, the school's registrar's office has confirmed.

Before becoming a state representative in 2013, Gardner was a registered nurse, and she appears to be furthering her nursing education in that field even as her office has shed an alarming number of staffers. At this point, only two prosecutors remain in the Circuit Attorney’s Violent Crimes unit, according to a document shared with the RFT. Yesterday, the attorney tasked with presenting cases to the grand jury put in her notice.

Gardner has said that efforts to remove her from office are a “witch hunt,” and, in a fiery speech last weekend, stated, “I don’t care if I have nobody in my office.”

But it might be harder to run a solo office if she’s also pursuing a graduate degree.

The RFT reached out to Gardner's spokesperson seeking clarity about the specific graduate program Gardner is enrolled in, her course load and time commitment involved. The spokesperson declined to address those questions.

However, the spokesperson provided the following statement: "Circuit Attorney Gardner believes the issues in our criminal justice system often relate to our broken healthcare system. After serving as a line attorney at the Circuit Attorney’s Office and seeing firsthand the underlying issues that drive crime, she became a Registered Nurse. She continues to stay current with classes at Saint Louis University to add to her training and advance her mission at the CAO. The Circuit Attorney has done this at great personal cost to her time with her family and loved ones. Any suggestion that she is not fully committed to her duties as Circuit Attorney is blatantly false."

Yesterday, Attorney General Andrew Bailey issued a subpoena to SLU's nursing school as part of his ongoing effort to remove Gardner from office.

Those subpoenas indicate that Bailey is seeking from the school "[a]ll documents reflecting Kimberly Gardner’s student directory information, course of study, class schedule, and hours worked in clinicals, internships, and practicums (hereinafter collectively referred to as “classes/clinicals”) from January 1, 2021, to the present, in any nursing or medical program at St. Louis University."

The request also included "the times, dates, and locations of all classes/clinicals taken by Kimberly Gardner for each semester since January 1, 2021" as well as emails from her student email account.

The RFT asked a former CAO staff member if they knew Gardner was enrolled in graduate courses in addition to being circuit attorney. This former staffer, who asked to not be named, said, "Sounds about right. That’d explain why she was a mix between generally inaccessible and rarely there."

Yesterday, on the same day Bailey issued those subpoenas, the RFT received an anonymous tip that Gardner is enrolled at SLU and “working on a Nurse Practitioner's Degree (spending up to 30 hours a week on campus)."

The tipster added, "Is she working towards a degree while ignoring her duties to the taxpayers of St. Louis City?"

Gardner earned a bachelor's degree in Healthcare Administration from Harris-Stowe in 1999 and a master of nursing from SLU in 2012. After receiving an MS in nursing, some healthcare professionals earn a doctor of nursing practice, which is a terminal degree.

Multiple calls to SLU's registrar's office confirmed Gardner is a current student in an advanced nursing program, though due to FERPA laws the school was unable to verify anything beyond that, including the exact program in which she is enrolled.

The tipster's note about Gardner spending 30 hours on campus is unlikely if Gardner is enrolled in the Doctor of Nurse Practitioner program, as the university's website says that program can be completed mostly through online course work, though it does require "1,050 or 1,125 clinical hours, depending on the specialty" as well as four in-person visits to campus.

Under Missouri law, circuit attorneys (as well as their assistants) must "devote their entire time and energy to the discharge of their official duties."

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