A state audit has identified several issues involving open records, lobbyist contributions and personnel policies in the Missouri legislature. State Auditor Nicole Galloway says the Missouri Senate is violating state law by maintaining a bank account outside the state treasury. Two prior audits found the same issue. The fund allows lobbyists to provide meals to Senate members and staff when working late during session.
“This lobbyist-funded bank account supplies meals to Senators and their state employees during session, even though Senators get about $100 daily allowance for meals and other items, a $100 per diem. Since the House and Senate receive this daily allowance meant to cover meals, it appears that there is no need for this lobbyist-funded state bank account,” says Galloway.
The account included $6,500 during a two year period.
Senate officials say they understand why closing the account is recommended, but they say “there’s no apparent solution that works operationally for the Senate.” They say they will look for other ways to pay for meals.
House members and staff are not provided meals by lobbyists when working late.
The report also says Missouri House employees earn more annual leave per month compared to other state workers.
“There’s no documentation or reason provided for that increased benefit,” says Galloway.
A state audit found that House staff receives 10 hours of annual leave per month during the first 5 years of employment. Most state workers earn 10 hours of annual leave each month during the first 10 years.
Galloway says records are also missing for some interim committees charged with addressing policy issues.
“We found several instances in which records that should exist from these committees were not available or maybe did not exist at all and several instances in which these committees weren’t meeting as required and therefore didn’t have minutes and final policy reports,” says Galloway.
Galloway also says both chambers have not defined what records are open or closed. Senate officials say they will consider amending the law to clarify which records are public and private. House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) says the findings will be reviewed to look for improvements.
The audit made recommendations in several other areas, including creating protections for whistleblowers when reporting abuse or violations in the workplace, allowing leave time to employees with family members returning from a military deployment and developing an equal opportunity employment policy to address requirements for the Americans with Disabilities Act.