JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A report conducted by the Missouri State Auditor’s Office, under the leadership of potential 2020 gubernatorial candidate Nicole Galloway, laser focused on how Gov. Mike Parson used taxpayer resources as lieutenant governor.
The audit, released Thursday, blasted the lack of an up-to-date calendar and questionable spending related to travel, payroll, and vehicle purchases. Parson’s office disputed the findings regarding expenditures noting, “some of the Auditor’s findings exceed the mandate of a post-audit and encroach upon the Lieutenant Governor’s discretion to make purchases and manage his office.”
The auditor’s office conducts a review of a statewide office’s operations when a change in leadership occurs. Parson served as Missouri’s lieutenant governor from January 9, 2017, to June 1, 2018, when he assumed the role of governor. The report gave a “fair” rating for his tenure as second-in-command.
Taxpayer funds were used to reimburse Parson for travel experiences that “did not appear necessary to office operations or a reasonable use of state funds,” according to a press release from the Auditor’s Office. Parson’s staff said the experiences were related to the job.
The expenditures the report took issue with included: $57 for round trip mileage from Bolivar to Branson to attend a 50th anniversary country gospel musical performance; $224 to attend a performance by the University of Missouri Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance; $111 for round trip mileage from Jefferson City to Kansas City for an event with Clark Hunt at Arrowhead Stadium; and $133 for round trip mileage from Jefferson City to Branson to attend the premiere of a theatrical performance.
While the audit questioned the relevance of the travel to the office, Parson’s staff said they were part of his efforts to promote tourism. In one of the highlighted expenditures, Parson attended the event to present the Pressley family with a proclamation recognizing their work in support of tourism in Missouri.
“The Lieutenant Governor’s Office only paid for the Lieutenant Governor to travel to events that has a business relationship to his work,” Christopher Limbaugh, geneal counsel, said. “The Lieutenant Governor used his personal vehicle for travel to these events because his travel was often for multiple purposes and it was more economically efficient to take one vehicle rather than returned to Jefferson City to return a fleet vehicle prior to resuming travel.”
Galloway, the lone Democrat holding a statewide office, is expected to challenge Parson for governor during the 2020 election. Neither potential candidate has formally announced their intention to run.
Alisha Shurr was a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University.