State auditor Susan Montee wants her people to start examining secret lawsuit and employee discrimination complaint settlements throughout state government. The revelation that the state agriculture department wanted to make a secret 80-thousand dollar payment to a former employee has caught Auditor Susan Montee’s attention. She calls the plan "outrageous."
Montee says she will be meeting with her staff to look for ways to investigate other secret legal settlements made by other departments.
The circumstances of the proposed payment came to light with the filing of a lawsuit by former department employee Heather Elder who had rejected the settlement, saying it was intended to keep her quiet. Elder had accused now-ousted Director Fred Ferrell of sexual harassment last year. The Blunt administration had the Highway Patrol do an admittedly illegal investigation of the allegations but refused to release results of the investigation until Elder’s lawsuit was filed. Governor Blunt says he ordered Ferrell to resign when negotiations for a secret settlement broke down.
Montee says the entire Department of Agriculture has not been audited since fiscal year 1998-99 although individual divisions have been checked. She says her auditors will start a full department audit this summer.