JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Missourinet)– A Missouri House oversight committee learned Wednesday that a state auditor’s employee overseeing the closeout audit of former Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) has been removed from that audit.
Hawley, who’s now a U.S. Senator, has accused State Auditor Nicole Galloway’s (D) office of using blatantly biased staff, including those who came from former U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s (D) campaign.
State Auditor Nicole Galloway’s audit director, Jon Halwes, testified for about 90 minutes before the House Special Committee on Government Oversight. State Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon, asked Halwes about employee Bobby Showers.
“He was the audit director on the (Hawley) audit until about two weeks ago, when I took over,” Halwes testified.
“Why did you take over,” Schroer asked Halwes.
“We removed him from the audit due to the appearance of bias,” Halwes said.
Representative Schroer says that Showers donated to Senator McCaskill’s campaign. The “St. Louis Post-Dispatch” notes Showers contributed $50 to McCaskill.
Mr. Halwes emphasizes that Showers was removed, because of the appearance that the audit might not be independent.
The closeout audit of Hawley’s office began in early 2019, according to Halwes. Hawley served as Missouri Attorney General from January 2017 to January 2019, before resigning following his November 2018 Senate victory over McCaskill.
Halwes took over the audit two weeks ago, which is about the same time Senator Hawley tweeted about his concerns with the auditor’s office. Halwes testified that he has not seen any indication of bias in Showers’ audit, as he’s reviewed it.
“In your two weeks since you’ve come into that position, has there been any indication of any actual bias in the course of this audit?,” State Rep. Peter Meredith, D-St. Louis, asked Halwes.
“I have not identified anything,” Halwes responds. “Okay, that’s good to hear,” Meredith told him.
In his mid-January tweets, Hawley revealed e-mails written by the auditor’s office in which an employee appeared to discuss changing part of the audit.
Hawley released an e-mail from auditor Pam Allison which said she would “beef up” part of the audit that involved Hawley’s use of personal email/personal calendar.
Allison was only briefly mentioned during Wednesday’s hearing, and none of the committee members asked about that e-mail.
As for Galloway, she says there has been no political bias nor impropriety during the audit process, emphasizing that audits are based on evidence and facts.
Mr. Halwes emphasized that too, during his testimony. He says audits are based on facts and evidence, not political beliefs. Halwes testified the auditor’s office has four levels of review. He says it would be impossible to release an audit that isn’t independent, because of those layers.
Halwes, who’s now overseeing the Hawley audit, is a career employee who has worked for the state auditor’s office for about 35 years. He testifies he’s voted Republican most of his life and that it doesn’t impact his independence to audit Democrats or others.
Auditor Galloway issued a statement after the hearing, reiterating what Chairman Ross told the committee and audience on Wedneday: that Missouri law prohibits the Auditor’s office from discussing the content of an ongoing audit. She says the team involved in the Hawley audit has nearly 90 years of audit experience, working for state auditors in both parties, dating to former State Auditor Margaret Kelly (R).
Galloway also says that David Kirby, who is the auditor’s legislative liaison, had no role in the audit process involving the Hawley closeout audit. Mr. Kirby was Senator McCaskill’s campaign manager.
House Special Committee on Government Oversight Chairman Robert Ross, R-Yukon, is concerned about Hawley’s allegations. He called the hearing.
“We as legislators rely on audits for a lot of oversight and watching how our government is performing,” Ross told Capitol reporters after the hearing. “We have to know that those are being performed without bias.”
Despite his concerns, Ross says Galloway has been tough on Republicans and Democrats, adding that she’s given “excellent” ratings to Republicans. Ross says there could be additional hearings in the future.
Galloway’s statement says the Hawley audit will be released “in the coming weeks.”