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MO: Audit dings Nixon for high travel, office expenses

By   /   September 5, 2012  /   News  /   No Comments

By Johnny Kampis | Missouri Watchdog

Gov. Jay Nixon

ST. LOUIS — Gov. Jay Nixon’s office spent more than $600,000 for taxpayer-funded travel expenses and used $1.7 million from other state agencies to pay the costs of his office, an audit released Wednesday shows.

Republican State Auditor Thomas Schweich gave Democratic Nixon’s office a “fair” rating in the report, the second-to-lowest grade possible. The audit studied Nixon’s first 30 months in office.

Schweich said $565,000 of the travel budget went for flights on state planes, and the Governor’s Office had not evaluated whether taking commercial flights for out-of-state trips was more economical. The report noted two trips to Washington, D.C., in which the use of an airline might have saved about $15,000.

Nixon’s office did not respond to requests from Missouri Watchdog for comment.

State Auditor Thomas Schweich

In a written response included in the audit, the administration said the office “follows state travel policy.”

“On occasion, circumstances require some deviations from the policy but efforts to ensure the most cost effective means are implemented. The office will ensure that such instances are appropriately handled,” the response said.

Schweich also criticized Nixon for using funding from other Missouri agencies to pay office expenses and the salaries of his employees.

During the study period from January 2009 to June 2011, about $1.7 million of Nixon’s office and mansion costs were charged to and paid from appropriations from more than a dozen other state agencies, according to the report.

If the expenses were paid using governor’s office funds, Nixon would have gone over his annual $2 million budget for all three fiscal years audited, Schweich said.

Those expenses included the Office of Administration paying $21,560 for phones used by Nixon’s employees and $6,191 for basic office supplies such as envelopes. Four other agencies paid $378,800 for dues in various governors’ associations, the audit said.

The auditor said this practice of shifting funds was noted in previous audits of the Department of Economic Development’s Tourism and Workforce Development divisions, the Department of Revenue’s Administrative Functions Division and the office of director of the Department of Mental Health.

Schweich also implied in the audit that Nixon may have misused his office’s resources for political gain — he faces GOP nominee Dave Spence in a re-election bid in the Nov. 6 general election. The auditor suggested that Nixon “reimburse the state for the use of state resources for purposes other than official state business.”

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Johnny Kampis is National Watchdog Reporter for Watchdog.org. Johnny previously worked in the newspaper industry and as a freelance writer, and has been published in The New York Times, Time.com, FoxNews.com and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A former semi-professional poker player, he is writing a book documenting the poker scene at the 2016 World Series of Poker, a decade after the peak of the poker boom. Johnny is also a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors.