JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Missourinet)– Missouri’s Democratic state auditor and the former GOP attorney general are blasting each other over a closeout audit that was released Thursday afternoon in Jefferson City.
The closeout audit of former Attorney General Josh Hawley’s (R) office found that consultants paid with Hawley state campaign funds interacted with and advised Attorney General office staff. The review said while coordination between campaign consultants and staff gave an appearance of impropriety, there are no clear violations of law.
The audit also found that former Attorney General Hawley used a state vehicle and state employee as a driver/security detail for some trips where the business purpose wasn’t documented.
State Auditor Nicole Galloway (D) released the audit in her Statehouse office, which was packed with reporters. A stage was set up, to accommodate additional television crews that covered the briefing.
Mr. Hawley served as attorney general from January 2017 to January 2019, when he resigned after his U.S. Senate election. In a series of January tweets, Hawley accused Galloway’s office of using partisan Democratic staff. Galloway addressed the issue, with the Capitol Press Corps on Thursday.
“The unfair attacks by Senator Hawley were an attempt to deceive taxpayers about the nature of this audit,” Galloway says.
In his audit response, Hawley says Galloway audit team member Bobby Showers donated to then U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s (D) 2018 campaign and wrote recently that any senator who opposes removing President Trump from office “will go down in history as not fulfilling their oath to their country.”
Showers, who was overseeing the closeout audit of Hawley, was removed from that audit in January, due to what Galloway audit director Jon Halwes described as “the appearance of bias.” Halwes also testified that he had not found any indication of actual bias in the audit, when reviewing it.
Halwes testified on January 29, before the Missouri House Special Committee on Government Oversight, which held a hearing on the issue.
During Thursday’s press conference, Auditor Galloway reiterated what Halwes said, adding Showers simply had a different political opinion than Hawley.
During his January tweets, Hawley mentioned Showers and others. Galloway accuses Hawley of launching misinformation ahead of the audit’s release, knowing that she couldn’t respond until the audit was formally released.
“The abuse these dedicated employees and licensed CPA’s (certified public accountants) had to endure is unacceptable,” Galloway tells Capitol reporters.
Galloway says her staff members performed the audit in adherence to professional audit standards. She also says her office experienced “roadblocks and threats” from current Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s (R) office. Schmitt’s office responded by saying the auditor’s claims “are ridiculous and unfounded.”
Galloway says Schmitt’s office challenged her authority to perform the closeout audit.
Hawley accuses Galloway’s office of altering the audit, to make it more critical. He is especially critical of an e-mail from auditor Pam Allison, which used the term “beef up.”
The Missouri auditor’s employee who used the term “beef up” when referring to the closeout audit says her term meant that she would add more detail to the audit. Allison spoke at the press conference with Galloway, telling reporters she grew up on a Polk County family farm, where you send cattle to the feedlot to be finished.
“This inadvertently sent e-mail was not evidence of a lack of objectivity, rather it was evidence that we were appropriately evaluating audit evidence,” says Allison.
The email from Allison read: “I’m thinking I’ll just drop the confidentiality paragraph in the (closeout audit) report and beef up the personal email/personal calendar section.” She says the report was a work in progress at the time, and that more details needed to be added.
The closeout audit concluded that AG Hawley’s office did not always follow communication and retention policies, and that the use of personal text and email to communicate official business was a violation of Attorney General Office (AGO) policy.
Senator Hawley’s written response to the audit describes the audit changes by Allison as “deeply inappropriate, unethical and potentially a violation of state law.”
In a tweet Thursday after the audit was released, Senator Hawley also said: “You (Auditor Galloway) should also come clean to investigators about putting political operatives on state payroll and manipulating audits to help your campaign for governor.”
Missouri Republican Party Executive Director Jean Evans has also issued a statement, calling for an investigation into Galloway’s audit. Evans accuses Galloway of abusing her office for politics.
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