Missouri’s auditor finds Greene County taxpayers footed $25,000 legal bill tied to 2017 ballot measure; county commission responds
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway released the audit of the former Greene County Commission on Tuesday and its involvement in a 2017 sales tax measure campaign.
Among its findings, the audit found taxpayers paid more than $25,000 in legal invoices sent to the personal address of now-former Presiding Commissioner Robert Cirtin. The audit claims the expenses were related to a Missouri Ethics Commission (MEC) complaint.
KY3 began reporting on the story after a whistleblower’s allegations in December of 2017. After the whistleblower notified Galloway’s office, the auditor requested authority from the Greene County Commission for her office to conduct a thorough, independent audit into allegations that public resources were misused to advocate for the ballot measure; however, the Greene County Commission at that time did not grant her request. The audit happened after newly elected officials joined the commission.
“I appreciate the cooperation of the current commission to bring this review to completion, after prolonged efforts by two former commissioners to prevent taxpayers from seeing how their tax dollars were used,” Auditor Galloway said.
The commission retained legal representation from law firms, costing more than $34,000 related to an election law complaint at the Missouri Ethics Commission without soliciting competitive bids, and did not enter into a contract with one of those law firms. Auditors found county taxpayers paid a total of $20,284 to a law firm for invoices sent to Cirtin at his personal address. Auditors also found Cirtin approved reimbursement to himself totaling $5,400 for additional legal expenses he initially personally paid to the same law firm. The audit found Cirtin also was paid for a reimbursement request for mileage to travel to Jefferson City to meet with legal counsel about the ethics complaint. Auditor Galloway says the commission did not formally sign off on the request before it was paid.
Auditors also found that, in violation of county policy and legal guidance, Cirtin used his official county email to encourage other county employees to engage in campaign activity around the sales tax measure. In one exchange, he asked a county employee to engage in political activity for the political action committee (PAC) formed to support the sales tax. When the employee raised concerns about doing work for a PAC as a county employee, the auditor says Cirtin told the employee to do it during free time. The employee resisted the order, citing it would be a violation of ethics laws.
A commission with two new members, including current Presiding Commissioner Dixon, voted early in 2019 to formally request that Auditor Galloway audit the entire government of Greene County. The auditor previously released audits of Greene County government and the Greene County Sheriff. She rated both of those as ‘good.’
The Greene County Commission responded to the audit Tuesday. Members say it is important to note the audit reflects the conduct of the previous commission. The commission says it has already enacted recommendations from the county’s professional services, disbursements, and email policy. The commission notes solutions to many of the recommendations in the audit have already been in place since 2019.
“The findings are not surprising,” said Greene County Commissioner Bob Dixon. “The public was very aware of the issues with the prior commission. Beginning in January of 2019, the current commission took steps to remedy many of these issues. We have also addressed other issues using the guidance provided by the Missouri State Auditor’s office in accordance with Missouri law,” said Presiding Commissioner Bob Dixon. This is the final report from the Missouri State Auditor’s office on these issues. The overall rating of a previous audit of Greene County in August of 2020 was “Good.”
A complete copy of the audit report, which gave a rating of “poor,” can be found here.
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