JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – A state audit released Wednesday shows that Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has continued to use money meant for other agencies to pay for expensive in-state flights and staffing, despite lawmakers’ efforts to stop the practice.If Nixon had not pulled money from other departments and delayed payments to a later fiscal […]
“If the rest of state government ran that way, we would be in deep trouble,” Deputy Auditor Harry Otto said.
Nixon said he hadn’t seen the audit’s findings but added that he doesn’t plan to change the way his office operates.
“The bottom line is we’re going to continue to make sure that we call on the resources of other departments when we need them, and we share the talents and skills of those other departments,” Nixon said.
The report comes amid budget negotiations for next fiscal year by frustrated lawmakers, who have questioned Nixon’s use of a state plane to fly across Missouri and have attempted to rein in the budget for his office.
Since 2012, the budgets passed by legislators have included wording restricting most state agencies from paying for travel and personnel expenses for the governor’s office and other statewide elected officials.
But the audit shows that Nixon’s administration has continued to do so.
The audit notes that the Revenue, Elementary and Secondary Education, and Health and Senior Services departments were among 14 agencies that paid the salaries of six members of governor’s staff.
In a written response included in the audit, Nixon’s office said it accounts for the costs in a way that properly reflects the work that is performed. Still, those employees work out of the governor’s office and are supervised by Nixon’s personnel.
The audit called the office’s written responses “generally nonresponsive.”
The exception to the spending restrictions is the Department of Public Safety, which can foot the bill if Nixon needs transportation in the event of a statewide emergency. That department paid roughly $120,000 for flights that many times included only the governor, his family and staff and were intended for bill signings and economic development announcements, in addition to disaster assessments and emergency preparedness, the audit found.
Lawmakers again this year have proposed including provisions in the budget for next fiscal year that would strip money from Nixon’s office and cut funds for travel to stop him from using taxpayer dollars for flights. That budget plan has not yet been finalized.
Other findings from the audit show Nixon’s staff booked out-of-state flights and hotel rooms that were needlessly expensive, were granted raises above what most state employees received and that the office spent $1,300 for staff to attend a one-day float trip with Nixon and his family in 2011.