SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– It was toward the end of a seemingly unrelated news conference when Sheriff Jim Arnott first offered to answer any question thrown his way.
“I’ll take anything,” he said. “Conspiracy theories? You want to ask me about the auditor? I don’t care. If you want to ask me, ask me now.”
No takers at first. So the offer went twice.
“Well, I find that strange because there are a couple media outlets here who want to talk about it all the time without interviewing me about it. So if you want to talk about it lets do it,” said the Sheriff.
Finally, after a third offer…
“State auditor? Anybody? I’ll throw it out there. I’m chum in the waters for you guys,” he said.
…a KOLR10 News photographer asked a question. Then the mood changed.
“Since you bit off on it… Denny, fire up the PowerPoint. Let’s talk about some things,” he said.
For the next half hour, the Sheriff presented the room with every piece of material State Auditor Nicole Galloway could investigate regarding allegations that Greene County advocated for the newly passed law enforcement tax using taxpayer money.
“I really need your support by voting yes Tuesday, November 7th,” he said, quoting his own Facebook posts.
“You can go to the federal Hatch Act, which allows elected officers to endorse anything they want,” he added.
He also addressed the nature of informational pamphlets about the benefits of the tax, printed by the county.
“When I seen it, I see nothing that says it’s an advocacy for a tax. It’s educational,” he argued.
By the way those pamphlets, he in part paid for. He showed us the receipts.
“I paid for some of these brochures out of my budget,” he said.
One by one he challenged each item’s relevance– and followed up by challenging the motive of the state auditor herself.
“Somebody wants publicity and somebody’s up for election,” he said. “So you want to come down to Greene County and spend your time doing an audit for free when you can’t do your job up in Jefferson City.”
While defending the Bob Cirtin email that aimed to keep the media uninformed.
“Does the Kansas City Chiefs invite the media into their locker-room when they’re going over their strategy and campaign,” he explained. “Does the coach give their play? Absolutely not. That’s normal. That’s not secret. That’s just the way it is.”