Criticism of former Republican Governor Eric Greitens’ use of private attorneys in his defense against possible impeachment continues to grow.
The chairman of a special House committee that was investigating Greitens addressed a letter to the Office of Administration Commissioner, Sarah Steelman, requesting it refuse payment to the attorneys.
Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, contends the lawyers who said they were working on behalf of the “Office of the Governor” would be representing the chair in which an elected official sits.
He said in an impeachment, the individual office holder is removed from the chair, but the chair remains in place for a new occupant.
Barnes indicated the attorneys’ agreement to represent with the governor’s office would be invalid because the office isn’t allowed to enter such a contract for more than $500.
He said Greitens had benefitted from a contractual arrangement between the “Office of the Governor” and the attorneys for legal work reported to be in excess of $150,000.
Barnes’ letter referenced Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley and Democratic state Auditor Nicole Galloway, who have also expressed concern over the use of state money to pay for the attorneys’ fees.
Galloway issued a statement Saturday saying she’ll work to get answers over ongoing concerns about Greitens’ use of private attorneys. In mid-May, Hawley addressed a letter to Galloway stating that the Office of Governor lacks authority to retain private impeachment counsel.
Hawley said only the legislature could authorize the governor to hire a private attorney at taxpayer expense. He also said the attorneys claiming to represent the office are acting without authority.
Hawley’s two-page letter quoted state laws and used previous court decisions, including the tobacco settlement from the early 2000’s to back up his argument.
The attorney general said the lawyers seem focused on advancing the individual interests of fellow GOP member Greitens rather than the Office of the Governor.
Galloway then sent a letter to the state treasurer and Office of Administration informing them she was investigating the matter and questioned the use of private lawyers at taxpayer expense.
Several days later, Galloway confirmed that the State Treasurer accepts paperwork and signs checks with very limited review and said the Office of Administration should look into the matter.
At the time, Greitens’ spokesperson, Parker Briden, contended Attorney General Hawley’s argument that the Governor’s Office attorneys were advancing private interests was factually wrong. He said they’ve attended meetings and interacted with lawyers representing the legislative branch on behalf of the office, not the governor himself.
Washington-based attorney Ross Garber was paid $320 an hour to represent the governor’s office while lawyer Edward Greim of the Graves Garrett law firm in Kansas City earned $340 an hour for the same purpose.
Representative Barnes’ letter concludes that Garber and Greim should seek compensation from Eric Greitens himself, not Missouri taxpayers.
Charges in two felony cases against Greitens have been dropped, one because of lack of evidence and the other in exchange for his resignation as governor.
Galloway issued a statement Saturday reasserting that she is investigating the former governor’s use of private attorneys.
A House committee that’s been seeking documents from Greitens’ dark money non-profit organization has dropped its demand for now. Mark Kempton, who’s representing the committee, filed the motion last Wednesday saying the panel is dropping its lawsuit at this time but reserves the right to refile one at a later date.
Greitens also faces a lawsuit over the use of an app by himself and his former office that instantly erases text messages after they are read. Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem has set a June 19th court date to hear arguments on whether or not to require the Office of the Governor to answer questions about the use of the app.
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