Greene County taxpayers footed a $25,000 legal bill in connection with 2017 ballot measure ethics probe

Audit Graphic

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway released the audit of the Greene County Commission that included the involvement of a former Greene County commissioner in a 2017 sales tax ballot measure campaign. Among its findings, the audit found that taxpayers paid more than $25,000 in legal invoices sent to the personal address of now-former Presiding Commissioner Robert Cirtin; the expenses were related to a Missouri Ethics Commission complaint.

In December 2017, acting on information obtained through the office’s Whistleblower Hotline, Auditor Galloway requested authority from the 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 County Commission at that time did not grant her request. Subsequently, after changes to the County Commission due to an election, the County Commission asked Galloway to audit the county government.

“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 over $34,000, related to an election law complaint at the MEC without soliciting competitive bids, and did not enter into a contract with one of those law firms.

Eventually, the MEC issued rulings describing violations of law and ethics rules surrounding Cirtin’s activities regarding the adoption of the sales tax. Auditors found that county taxpayers paid a total of $20,284 to a law firm for invoices sent to Cirtin at his personal address. Auditors also found that Cirtin approved a reimbursement to himself totaling $5,400 for additional legal expenses that he initially personally paid to the same law firm. Cirtin also was paid for a reimbursement request for mileage to travel to Jefferson City to meet with legal counsel about the MEC complaint; however, there was no commission or other signature indicating the request was approved 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 formed to support the sales tax. When the employee raised concerns about doing work for a PAC as a county employee, Cirtin told the employee to do it in their 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 of the Greene County Sheriff. Both of those reports gave a rating of “good.”

The audit released today of the Greene County Commission looked at the specific allegations related to the former Presiding Commissioner’s involvement in the 2017 sales tax campaign, as well as other operations of the Commission.

A complete copy of the audit report, which received a rating of “poor,” can be found here.