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Greitens’ fiscal practices while governor blasted in new audit

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Former Gov. Eric Greitens used the same fiscal practices while in the Governor’s Office he blasted while on the campaign trail, according to a recent audit. 

State Auditor Nicole Galloway, who is making a 2020 gubernatorial bid as a Democrat, released the findings of a closeout audit more than a year after the scandal-plagued Republican resigned. The report found Greitens engaged in the same questionable practices of his predecessor — which he disavowed on the campaign trail — and left taxpayers on the hook for more than $200,000 in legal bills related to the use of an encrypted text messaging application

Greitens’ office “continued to supplement operations by using appropriations of other state agencies, and therefore circumvented the appropriation process established by the General Assembly,” the report said. 

In all, the office “under reported the true costs of operating the office” — shifting more than $1.5 million in personnel, security, and more to other state agencies during his 17 months in office, according to the report. The salaries of 16 employees from the Governor’s Office or the mansion — totaling more than $571,000 — were paid from appropriations of 14 other state agencies, the audit found. 

The audit found the former governor accrued about $201,300 in legal expenses through June 2018 related to his office’s use of Confide. About $178,000 was paid by the Governor’s Office; nearly $23,000 was paid by the State Legal Expense Fund through the Attorney General’s Office. 

An additional $153,000 in legal expenses for two outside law firms related to the state House’s investigation into Greitens was also accrued. However, the Office of Administration (OA) declined to pay those fees as it decided they “were not within the purpose of the state appropriations as the services were primarily for the personal benefit of” Greitens and not the office, the report said. 

The audit rated the overall performance of the office as “fair,” a third-tier score after “excellent” and “good” but before “poor.” A “fair” rating means the audit uncovered “several areas” in the office which needs improvement and immediate attention. 

The report also slammed Greitens’ office for failing to put in place procedures to ensure vacancies on boards, commissions, and committees were filled in a timely manner. His office also did not have proper protocol to make sure board records were accurate or complete, the report said. 

Galloway’s office noted Greitens established the Boards and Commissions Task Force while he was in office. Although the group recommended eliminating 44 boards, only eight have been dissolved. 

The audit also took aim at state laws, saying they are “ambiguous and contradictory” when it comes to the use of state resources for political and personal purposes by the Governor’s Office. 

“Similar to previous governors, [Greitens] used the security and transportation resources provided by the Missouri State Highway Patrol for all official, political, and personal activities. The state also paid the personal food costs for [Greitens] and his family,” the audit said. “The Governor did not reimburse the state for any political or personal use of state resources.” 

Christopher Limbaugh, general counsel for Gov. Mike Parson, said the current chief executive adheres to all state laws regarding the use of resources for political and personal purposes. 

“To the extent the Auditor finds these statutes need to be amended, she is welcome to offer legislative proposals to accomplish these goals,” Limbaugh said in a response to Galloway. 

As for Greitens, Jeffrey Earl, deputy legislative director, said the former governor “followed all state laws and regulations regarding the use and expenditure of state resources, consistent with previous governors.” 

The audit recommended the Governor’s Office stop using other state agencies to pay for certain operating costs within the office. 

“The Governor’s office should request funding levels sufficient to pay all operating costs of the office and mansion from its own appropriations and ensure expenditures do not exceed office appropriation authority,” the report said. “If other agency personnel perform duties related to the operation of the Governor’s office, their time should be recorded and paid from the Governor’s office appropriations.” 

In response, Limbaugh said Galloway’s report “fails to acknowledge the fluid and flexible nature of the work many state employees perform in order to prevent inefficiencies or gaps in the service to the State.” 

“All agencies under the purview of the chief executive officer of the State of Missouri work with and for the Governor in the performance of his duties,” Limbaugh said. “To the extent the Auditor disagrees with the budgeting and appropriations process she is welcome to offer legislative proposals or provide constructive testimony during budget hearings.”