The state auditor and elected leaders in a southwest Missouri county have revived their feud over an investigation.
A lawyer for the Greene County Commission is slamming state Auditor Nicole Galloway’s renewed call for her office to examine possible wrongdoing.
The Springfield News-Leader reports attorney Eddie Greim chastised Galloway for using the media to pressure the commission and said her actions “stray very far from the code of conduct she is supposed to follow as a supposed-neutral auditor.”
Galloway originally asked to audit the County Commission after receiving a whistleblower complaint in December. The commission, specifically Presiding Commissioner Bob Cirtin, is accused of possibly misusing public funds to promote a 1/2-cent sales tax ballot measure.
The commission has repeatedly rejected Galloway’s request to perform an audit, instead choosing to rely on a state Ethics Commission investigation of its activities. But the Ethics Commission is currently non-functional after term-limited members vacated their positions and were not replaced by Governor Eric Greitens.
Greitens’ spokesman Parker Briden has stated that the governor will make appointments to the three vacant seats before the Ethics Cimmission’s next scheduled meeting on April 25
According to the News-leader, Greim says Galloway is making an assumption that the ethics commission still has to take a vote on the Greene County investigation when a decision may have already been made.
Galloway’s office says an audit by her office is the only way forward and contends Greims, as a hired private attorney, is only serving the interests of the county commission, not the taxpayers. Greim works for Graves Garrett, a Kansas-city based law firm and was brought in after news of the whistleblower allegations.
Two of the three Greene County Commissioners, Cirtin, and Harold Bengsch, are in agreement that the Ethics Commission is the proper state agency to investigate the possible wrongdoing. Cirtin has said the type of investigation needed for the county commission is outside the jurisdiction of the auditor’s office.
In a Wednesday news release, Galloway’s office differentiated the function of the two departments, saying Missouri Ethics Commission looks into violations of campaign finance laws, while the auditor is charged with investigating abuse and misuse of taxpayer dollars.
The third Greene Count Commissioner, Lincoln Hough, has been a vocal critic of the action taken so far and believes Galloway should conduct a full audit. A citizen’s petition was launched in December to support of an examination by Galloway, who has offered to audit the county for free.
20 whistleblower complaints flowed into Galloway’s office after former county spokeswoman Trysta Herzog became the first. Herzog alleged that she “faced nearly daily coercion … from Presiding Commissioner Bob Cirtin to participate in political activities as part of (her) job.”
In a statement Wednesday, Galloway continued to make her case for an investigation by her office and blamed the law firm hired by the county for blocking progress toward that end.
“As I have said since these allegations in Greene County came to light over three months ago, the best way to ensure taxpayers get the answers they deserve is through an independent audit that will account for how public dollars were used,” Galloway said. “But because of the actions of two Greene County commissioners after they hired a private law firm out of Kansas City, my office has been unable to proceed. With the inability of the Missouri Ethics Commission to act, citizens are left waiting for answers and accountability.”