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Missouri state auditor accuses Gov. Nixon of hiding expenses

Missouri state Auditor Tom Schweich.
(Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio)
Missouri state Auditor Tom Schweich.

Updated 4:37 p.m. with additional reporting.

Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich released an audit of Governor Jay Nixon on Wednesday accusing Nixon of overspending his appropriation by $1.7 million and thumbing his nose at the budget appropriation process.

Schweich gave Nixon's office a grade of "fair" on a scale spanning excellent, good, fair and poor. Schweich says a rating of "fair," indicates "multiple adverse findings and/or an indication that the agency in question has no plans to correct previous findings."

Specifically Schweich says Nixon's office billed other agencies for his staff’s salaries and and travel expenses. 

“There were 14 agencies that paid for $770,000 worth of salaries for the governor’s employees, plus $32,000 for an education advisor,” Schweich says. “Then the governor spent 334 days on the state plane, with 96 percent of those flight costs charged to other agencies.”

The audit isn’t the first time Nixon has come under fire for his budget accounting.

Last spring, the General Assembly passed rules barring state agencies from paying for the Governor’s travel or staff.  Schweich says Nixon is finding ways to circumvent that regulation.

“What the governor is doing is finding ways to exceed that appropriation by forcing other agencies to take that money out of their appropriation,” Schweich says. “No accountant thinks that’s proper, no one I’ve heard of thinks that’s proper.”

Nixon’s staff released a statement saying the Governor’s office “accounts for its operational costs in a manner that properly reflects the nature of the work it performs.”

Some question the timing of the audit given that Schweich is a Republican and Nixon is a Democrat up for re-election in November.

Schweich says any allegations of political gamesmanship are “patently false," stating that he is required to conduct an audit of every state agency during its term. Moreover, he says his predecessor, Democrat (and candidate for Lieutenant Governor) Susan Montee never conducted an audit of the Governor’s office.

Follow Adam Allington on Twitter:  @aallington