Missouri’s incoming attorney general says he’s been conducting interviews with staff members of outgoing Attorney General Josh Hawley (R).
Hawley and Republican Eric Schmitt, who’s currently the State Treasurer, held a joint press conference Thursday in Jefferson City, after Hawley’s senior staff briefed Schmitt in front of reporters.
Schmitt is expected to be sworn-in as attorney general on January 3.
“We anticipate that, by and large, a lot of the great people that are working here (the Missouri attorney general’s office) today will be working here in January,” Schmitt says.
Schmitt tells the Capitol Press Corps there’s many great people working in Hawley’s office. He also says a website has been established for people to send their resumes and to apply for positions.
A reporter asked Schmitt about the multi-state lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Schmitt says it’s inappropriate for him to comment on pending cases, until he’s fully briefed on them.
Hawley told Schmitt and reporters that investigations into opioid manufacturers and opioid distributors continue. He also says investigations into Google and Facebook continue.
Attorney General Hawley also says the investigation into the nonprofit organization “Mission Continues” is ongoing.
Both Hawley and Schmitt were asked by reporters about the Confide App, after a recent report in the “Kansas City Star” that a former top Hawley staffer had used it.
Hawley says there’s a policy in the attorney general’s office that Confide is not to be used for public business. He says he takes it seriously and expects all of his staffers to abide by it, adding that using Confide would be considered a clear violation of office policy.
As for Schmitt, he says no one in government should be using Confide for public business.
Hawley also addressed several other big cases he’s been involved in during his two years as attorney general.
He says it’s time to restructure Missouri’s legal expense fund, which is used to make payments that stem from lawsuits against the state.
“My own view is that it is time to require (state) agencies, all agencies, to pay at least a portion of the judgments and settlements against them, out of their own budgets,” says Hawley.
Hawley says that when he took office in January 2017, there were about $450 million in pending claims against the fund. He says it’s now down to about $400 million.
Missouri lawmakers this year approved legislation from then-House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, that requires the Missouri attorney general to submit a monthly report to lawmakers about the state legal expense fund.
While Hawley had already been doing that, Beatty wanted it to be state statute. She emphasized transparency, and her bill had wide, bipartisan support.
In a response to a Thursday question from Missourinet, Hawley says a popular recreational lake in southeast Missouri which has seen multiple deaths remains closed.
Mr. Hawley’s office filed a lawsuit in late July against “The Offsets“, which is a former quarry near Fredericktown. Hawley says the facility has been the site of at least nine deaths and numerous serious injuries.
“If ever there’s a public nuisance, this is it,” Hawley says. “And people think of barking dogs as public nuisances, this is people dying. It’s a very serious matter.”
The quarry is surrounded by 40-foot bluffs, where people jump in a lake. Hawley has called on the owners to fence off the highest bluffs and to place a dock on the water.
Hawley, who unseated Senator Claire McCaskill in November, will resign as attorney general on January 3.
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