Audit cites questionable use of state resources in office of former Mo. Attorney General; Hawley files complaint

Audit cites questionable use of state resources in office of former Mo. Attorney General; Hawley files complaint
State Auditor Nicole Galloway released a report looking into whether former Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley used state resources for political purposes. (Source: Gray News)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KFVS) - State Auditor Nicole Galloway released a report looking into whether former Attorney General Josh Hawley used state resources for political purposes.

The report released on Thursday, February 6 focuses on the allegations of use of state resources for political purposes as requested by the Secretary of State. The result of the audit showed that it appeared state law was not broken, but it did find some cases of violations of Attorney General’s Office policy.

You can click here to read the full audit released on Thursday.

Another report on the general operations of the Attorney General’s Office during Hawley’s two-year tenure in office is ongoing. That report is expected to be finished in the coming months.

According to the Office of the Auditor, this portion of the closeout audit was requested by Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, shortly after his office started an investigation into a complaint that Attorney General Hawley used public funds to support his U.S. Senate campaign.

“At the request of the Republican Secretary of State, my office performed an in-depth audit, which confirmed media reports about the use of campaign consultants and a state vehicle by the office of the former Attorney General,” Auditor Galloway said. “Campaign-paid political consultants from out of state advised staff in the Attorney General’s Office. Additionally, then-Attorney General Hawley used a state vehicle and state employee for trips that were partly political or appeared personal.”

According to the audit, consultants paid with Hawley’s state campaign funds interacted with and advised Attorney General’s Office staff. This included in-person meetings during working hours at the Attorney General’s Office in Jefferson City where consultants provided logistical guidance to state employees.

While the interactions between consultants and government officials appear to use state resources for political purposes, according to the audit, no evidence exists of a violation of state law. Additionally, because campaign and AGO staff communicated by private email and text messages, the purposes of the meetings could not always be determined.

The audit also found that Attorney General Hawley used a state vehicle and state employee as driver/security detail for some trips for which the business purpose was not documented. According to the audit, some trips were partly political and other trips appeared to be personal.

In some cases, according to the audit, the state employee took vacation time and received separate payment from federal campaign funds during the time of specific meetings. There is no record of any reimbursements to the state for the use of a state vehicle on these trips.

The audit recommended that taxpayers be reimbursed for the amount of state resources used for political or personal purposes by former Attorney General Hawley.

While there are no provisions in state law that allow for reimbursement for non-official use, such reimbursements by elected officials have taken place in the past, according to the auditor’s office.

Lastly, the audit found that the Attorney General’s Office did not always follow communication and retention policies. The use of personal text and email to communicate official business and the use of a Google calendar for official meeting invites were in violation of AGO policy.

The audit recommended that the Attorney General’s Office ensure policies are followed regarding the use of personal email accounts and personal devices, and that business communications are kept in accordance with state-approved record schedules.

According to Senator Josh Hawley, he would be submitting a complaint to the Missouri State Board of Accountancy.

He said the complaint cited a number of “troubling issues” with the audit process, including:

  • An email detailing the audit team’s plan to alter the report to criticize Hawley
  • Potential violation of Missouri law for leaking the audit to press before it was publicly released
  • Evidence of political bias
  • Potential violations of conflict of interest standards
  • Use the office of the State Auditor for political gain

You can read the full letter below.

At a press conference announcing the release of the report, Auditor Nicole Galloway addressed now-Senator Josh Hawley’s response to the audit several weeks before the report was finalized and available to the public.

“The unfair attacks by Senator Hawley in an attempt to deceive taxpayers about the nature of this audit are disturbing, but unfortunately, they are not surprising,” Auditor Galloway said. “My career staff carried out this audit professionally and in adherence to professional audit standards, sometimes in the face of abusive attacks. Now that all of the facts are available, it is clear that this report is based solely on evidence provided by current and former Attorney General’s Office staff and political consultants who worked with the office. There was no bias.”

We talked to Lori Croy, the director of communications for the Missouri Department of Commerce and Insurance, on Thursday. She said she is not allowed to confirm that a complaint was filed by Hawley under state law:

20 CSR 2010-1.030 – Public Complaint Handling and Disposition Procedure.

(6) Both the complaint and any information obtained as a result of the investigation shall be considered a closed record of the board and shall not be available for inspection by the public. The board shall provide the subject of the complaint, or the subject of the complaint’s authorized representative, upon a receipt of a signed authorization, with a copy of the complaint and any attachments to the complaint unless otherwise privileged. During the investigative stage, the board or its executive staff shall keep the complaint and the fact of its existence confidential to the extent practicable.

Croy said when the Missouri State Board of Accountancy receives a complaint, it’s investigated if it’s deemed necessary and Missouri law states appropriate action will be taken if needed.

According to Croy, if someone has disciplinary action taken, only then does it become public.

The Missouri State Board of Accountancy deals with licenses of professionals in Missouri.

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