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Missouri Auditor accused of wrongly disclosing confidential information in Josh Hawley audit

 Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway announcing in June that she won't run for reelection.
Andrea Smith
St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway announcing in June that she won't run for reelection.

Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway faces accusations by a state agency that she impermissibly disclosed confidential information in an audit of former Attorney General Josh Hawley in 2020.

The Missouri State Board of Accountancy filed a complaint on Dec. 15 requesting permission from the Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission to take disciplinary action against Galloway.

The complaint alleges she disclosed confidential information when her office attached transcripts of sworn testimony by Hawley’s staffers to a publicly released audit and, in so doing, violated professional standards.

A spokesman for Galloway, the only Democrat to hold statewide office in Missouri, referred to a comment Galloway made earlier this year when she sued the accountancy board in Cole County Circuit Court. In that lawsuit, Galloway accused the board of misapplying Missouri law in a way that would prevent the state auditor from disclosing its findings about government waste and fraud.

“Never before in this state's history has the licensing board for accountants asserted any authority over the powers and functions of the State Auditor,” Galloway said in the statement from September. “By attempting to control information available to the public, a board of gubernatorial appointees is interfering with the Auditor's central role in enforcing government transparency and accountability. This cannot be allowed to stand.”

Galloway filed her lawsuit when the accountancy board was threatening her with discipline. Her lawsuit is pending, and it wasn’t immediately clear why the accountancy board went ahead and filed its complaint last Wednesday.

A person answering the phone at the office for Samantha Anne Green, a Jefferson City attorney who represents the accountancy board in its complaint, said Green could not comment until the case was resolved.

The flap stems from an audit Galloway did of Hawley’s office after he resigned as attorney general in 2018 to become a U.S. senator. The state auditor customarily does what’s referred to as “closeout audits” of state agencies when an elected official overseeing it leaves office.

As the closeout audit of Hawley’s office began, Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft asked for an investigation of a complaint filed by the left-leaning American Democracy Legal Fund.

That complaint was based largely on reporting by The Kansas City Star in October 2018 when Hawley, a Republican, was running against incumbent U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill.

The newspaper found that Hawley, who campaigned on the idea that he wouldn’t use his time as attorney general to seek higher office, relied on paid political advisors to direct the activities of the state’s highest law enforcement office while boosting his political profile ahead of his eventual campaign for Senate.

Galloway’s audit, when it was released in 2020, confirmed many of The Star’s findings. The audit said coordination between political operatives and the attorney general’s staff gave rise to the appearance of impropriety and that state resources may have been used for political purposes.

Hawley and others objected when the public audit report included transcripts of depositions taken by state auditors of top Hawley aides and advisors. They said the transcripts contained discussions of personnel decisions, ongoing litigation and other matters that shouldn’t have been publicly disclosed.

Galloway responded that she disclosed the materials in the interest of transparency.

The accountancy board’s complaint says that one of Galloway’s staff expressed concerns to her supervisor about whether the transcripts should be included in the audit report. That supervisor replied that it was Galloway’s decision to include the transcripts, according to the complaint.

Galloway ran for Missouri governor in 2020 and lost in a landslide to Mike Parson. She has said she will not run again for Missouri Auditor.

Copyright 2021 KCUR 89.3

Steve Vockrodt is the investigative editor for the Midwest Newsroom.