Update: The Greene County Commission has released a statement saying, "The Commission takes employee complaints seriously, and we intend to fully cooperate with the State Auditor’s Office on this matter".
Jefferson City, Mo. - (12/6/17)
Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway today requested the authority for her office to conduct a thorough, independent audit into allegations that public resources were misused in Greene County to advocate for a sales tax ballot measure. Last month, voters in Greene County approved the 1/2-cent general revenue sales tax increase.
Auditor Galloway said her office recently received credible information through the Auditor's Whistleblower Hotline to indicate public officials conducted inappropriate activities related to the ballot measure. County employees allegedly performed or were asked to perform duties related to the Invest in Greene County Political Action Committee advocating for the measure, including accepting PAC donations in county offices during work hours.
State law prohibits the contribution or expenditure of public funds to advocate, support or oppose any ballot measure or candidate for public office. Such advocacy efforts using public resources are different from efforts to provide information to citizens about a ballot measure.
The Auditor said because of the persons involved in the allegations, there needs to be an independent audit to account for if and how public dollars were used in a political manner.
Auditor Galloway's letter to the Greene County Commission asking the commission to request an audit outlines the allegations and asks that the county not destroy or dispose of any records relating to the ballot measure and any potential advocacy until an independent audit has been conducted. Those records would include emails, recordings and minutes of meetings, and other documents.
Under current Missouri law covering first-class counties, the State Auditor's Office must receive an ordinance or resolution passed by the county commission requesting the State Auditor audit either the county as a whole or a particular officer or office of that county.
The Auditor also said the allegations in Greene County demonstrate the vital role played by public employee whistleblowers in uncovering allegations of the abuse of authority by public officials. Earlier this year, the Governor signed a law limiting legal protections for government workers who blow the whistle on improper or illegal activity in the workplace, putting them at greater risk of being retaliated against or fired.
State and public employees can use the Auditor's Whistleblower Hotline to share information on waste, fraud and mismanagement of taxpayer dollars. Reports are anonymous and protected by law. Individuals may contact the State Auditor's Whistleblower Hotline by emailing email@example.com or by calling 800-347-8597. Concerns may also be submitted anonymously online at auditor.mo.gov/hotline.
A copy of the Auditor's letter to the Greene County Commission is here. Any information substantiating the allegations will be provided to law enforcement, the Missouri Ethics Commission and Secretary of State's Office when applicable.