Attorney General releases first reports on state’s legal expense fund
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Just over 100 days after taking office, Attorney General Josh Hawley has released monthly reports for the previous three months on the state’s issued funds from the Legal Expense Fund.
Hawley on Monday posted reports for January, February, and March of 2017 to the Attorney General’s website, the first time any attorney general has done so in Missouri. The reports detail settlements and judgments along with court costs and other expenses associated with the cases.
The move comes after reports in the last few months have highlighted concerns about state taxpayer dollars being used for legal settlements.
During this year’s legislative session, several lawmakers have put forward legislation and amendments which would have required Hawley to make the information available to the public.
House Minority Floor Leader Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, was one such lawmaker. She filed a bill this session asking for more transparency on the state’s legal expense fund payouts, noting that Missouri had paid out approximately $52 million in the past five years in settlements and judgments.
The most notable payout, which caught the eye of many, was the more than $7.5 million used to pay or settle cases against the Department of Corrections for harassment and discrimination.
Following the reports from several media outlets, both the legislature and the State Auditor’s office opened investigations into the state’s lawsuits and payouts.
In testimony earlier this month to a Senate committee, Hawley said the state was potentially on the hook for an additional $28 million in payouts from cases that are currently underway.
“I believe the people of Missouri deserve a transparent and accountable Attorney General’s Office,” Hawley said. “For too long, major decisions and details of state government have been made away from the view of Missourians – that needs to change. My hope is this report demonstrates how seriously I take my commitment to transparency, and I look forward to continue seeking opportunities to further that commitment.”
Hawley’s office plans to continue posting the reports each month going forward. You can view the full reports here.