Missouri Ethics Commission unable to act in foreseeable future because of lack of quorum; county commission urged to get answers for taxpayers
JEFFERSON CITY, MO (STL.News) Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway today renewed her call for an independent audit to determine if and how public resources were used to improperly advocate for a ballot measure in Greene County. The County Commission publicly stated the issue would be resolved by a Missouri Ethics Commission investigation, however, the Ethics Commission now lacks the number of members required to take action.
“As I have said since these allegations in Greene County came to light over three months ago, the best way to ensure taxpayers get the answers they deserve is through an independent audit that will account for how public dollars were used,” Auditor Galloway said. “But because of the actions of two Greene County commissioners after they hired a private law firm out of Kansas City, my office has been unable to proceed. With the inability of the Missouri Ethics Commission to act, citizens are left waiting for answers and accountability.”
Auditor Galloway said her office received credible whistleblower allegations that county employees were asked to perform duties related to the Invest in Greene County Political Action Committee, and that performing duties advocating for the ballot measure was a condition of employment. There also were allegations that county officials or employees accepted donations for the PAC while in county offices and during work hours, and that county resources, funds and equipment may have been used as part of an advocacy strategy for the ballot measure.
While initial public statements from the Greene County Commission implied they would cooperate with the State Auditor’s Office, two commissioners then supported hiring a private law firm at taxpayer expense.
In January, the County Commission announced they would rely on a Missouri Ethics Commission investigation to resolve concerns in Greene County. The Missouri Ethics Commission looks into violations of campaign finance laws, while the State Auditor’s Office is charged with investigating abuse and misuse of taxpayer dollars.
Last week, the terms of three members of the Missouri Ethics Commission expired, leaving the six-member commission unable to vote or take action on complaints. New commissioners will need to be appointed and approved by the state Senate, but the Governor has yet to submit the names of any nominees.
“The fact of the matter is the clock has run out, and the Missouri Ethics Commission is unable to act, leaving Greene County taxpayers without answers. An audit by my office is the only sure path forward,” Auditor Galloway said.
Due to the serious nature of the allegations and the unique expertise her office has in these matters, the audit into allegations that public resources were misused could be provided using existing appropriations at no additional cost to Greene County taxpayers.
Under current Missouri law covering first-class counties, the State Auditor’s Office must receive an ordinance or resolution passed by the county commission requesting the State Auditor audit either the county as a whole or a particular officer or office of that county.
A copy of the Auditor’s letter to the Greene County Commission is HERE.