State Auditor’s Office refutes attorney general’s claims, says it has ‘authority to disclose information in a public audit report’
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — State Auditor Nicole Galloway “likely” violated state law by releasing full transcripts along with her partial audit of former Attorney General Josh Hawley Thursday, the current attorney general said.
The Auditor’s Office released a more than 450-page report Thursday of its investigation into Hawley’s use of state resources while he was the attorney general and running for U.S. Senate. Included in the report are transcripts and office-to-office correspondences of interviews the office conducted.
The inclusion of those documents with the report could be in violation of state law, the Attorney General’s Office said Thursday.
“As the Chief Legal Officer for the state of Missouri, the Attorney General’s Office has repeatedly expressed and continues to express serious concerns with the political nature of this audit and the unprecedented inclusion of transcripts, likely in violation of Missouri Statute 29.200.17…,” Attorney General Eric Schmitt said.
The Attorney General’s Office pointed to state statute which says in part: “[A]udit workpapers and related supportive material shall be kept confidential, including any interpretations, advisory opinions, or other information or materials used and relied on in performing the audit.”
“We have grave concerns about the irreparable harm this audit could have on the Auditor’s Office and good government in general, and we will cooperate with any investigations into this matter,” Schmitt said.
A spokesperson for Galloway pushed back on the accusations Thursday night, saying state law gives her “the authority to disclose information in a public audit report, unless another provision of law specifically prohibits it.”
“There is not any law that prohibits the disclosure of sworn testimony gathered in the course of an audit,” Galloway spokesperson Steph Deidrick said.
“Any criticism by Attorney General Schmitt regarding the laws that govern the State Auditor’s authority rings hollow. In 2013, then-Senator Schmitt voted in favor of expanding the authority of the Auditor’s Office to conduct investigations,” Deidrick said in reference to what was then HB 116. “Additionally, the Attorney General is currently prosecuting public corruption cases where we utilized this same authority to expose wrongdoing.”
Chris Nuelle, a spokesman for the attorney general, also refuted accusations Galloway made during a Thursday press conference that Schmitt’s office did not cooperate with her audit. Nuelle said:
“Auditor Galloway’s claims are ridiculous and unfounded. No such claims are even hinted at in the audit report prepared by her staff. From the beginning, the Attorney General’s Office worked tirelessly to cooperate and work with the State Auditor’s Office. That means dedicating thousands of man hours to gather, review, and transmit hundreds of thousands of pages of records, line up interviews and meetings, and respond to requests, all while continuing to perform the normal duties of the Attorney General’s Office. The correspondence from our office showed that we operated in a professional, cooperative manner.”
The partial audit said Hawley had a “questionable use of state resources.” That includes utilizing a state vehicle for political purposes or in a way that “had the appearance of being personal in nature,” the audit said.
The 462-page report also said staff communications with campaign consultants as Hawley began his U.S. Senate bid gave “no evidence of a violation of state law.” In part, the audit said it came to that conclusion because communications were conducted “through private channels.”
Immediately after the audit was released, Hawley released a statement saying he had been “exonerated.”
“Once again, partisan campaign attacks against Josh Hawley have been proven false. This baseless allegation was instigated by a Democrat group in support of Mr. Hawley’s 2018 U.S. Senate campaign opponent,” Cooper & Kirk attorney Brian Barnes said in a statement. “The audit is a total exoneration of Mr. Hawley’s time as Attorney General. He never misused state resources for political purposes.”
The partial report comes on the heels of a public feud between Galloway and Hawley, a Republican. The former has accused Galloway, the lone Democratic statewide office holder, of misusing her office to investigate him.
In a January letter to Pamela Allison, a supervisory manager at the Auditor’s Office, Hawley’s attorney alleged “deeply troubling information … about the Auditor’s own conduct during” the audit. The letter accused Allison, specifically, of altering the audit to “beef up” the content.
Hawley’s attorney also criticized Galloway for hiring former U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill’s campaign manager during the “pendency” of the audit. (McCaskill was Hawley’s Democratic opponent in the race for the U.S. Senate seat.)
Thursday’s report said there was no “evidence of a lack of objectivity, rather evidence that the audit team was appropriately evaluating audit evidence.”
“As with all audit reports, the draft report underwent a thorough review process with many revisions, including the areas of concern noted in the email, before it was provided to the AGO,” the report said.
Since Hawley made his accusations publicly, the House Special Committee on Government Oversight held a hearing, and Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz filed legislation requesting an independent audit of Galloway’s own office.
Hawley has also submitted a formal complaint to the Missouri State Board of Accountancy.
Hawley was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2018 after serving as Missouri’s attorney general for two years. Galloway has served in her capacity since 2015 and is a 2020 gubernatorial candidate.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is the editor of The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in early 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City.
Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.
She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.
Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.