Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Auditor’s Office Serving Peter Kinder, Not Taxpayers (Press Release)

Press release from the Missouri Democratic Party:
Jefferson City, Mo.—As details about the State Auditor’s review of Lt. Governor Peter Kinder continue to emerge, more questions arise about the veracity and integrity of a review conducted by Kinder’s political allies. For months, the Missouri Democratic Party has called on Kinder to release his schedules and for an independent, third-party audit to determine how much Kinder used taxpayer funds to finance his extravagant lifestyle.

“It’s clear that the Auditor is more concerned about protecting Peter Kinder’s reputation than truly determining how much taxpayer money Kinder spent over the last seven years while gallivanting around town,” said Caitlin Legacki, Missouri Democratic Party spokeswoman. “Until Kinder releases his schedule and an independent, third-party audit is conducted, Missourians have no way of knowing what Kinder’s really been up to.”

The more we learn about the Auditor’s “review” of Kinder’s misuse of taxpayer funds, the clearer it becomes that a independent audit is needed here. The Auditor’s Office bends over backwards to let Kinder off the hook, offering little clarity on whether Kinder properly reimbursed the taxpayers for financing his political and personal activities.

Auditor Conveniently Redefines Role to Give Kinder A Free Pass

  • Auditor's Office: Not Our Job to Question Whether Events Are Political Or Official. At a press conference releasing the results of the "review," deputy auditor Harry Otto told reporters that: "It is not within our purview to make a judgment call on what is and what is not state business for a statewide elected official." [Press Conference, 7/6/11]

  • Reality: Earlier This Year, Schweich Said Rapid Response Team Would Address Precisely This Type of Waste. As reported by the St. Louis Post Dispatch just five months ago, Schweich said he will designate a "rapid response team" to jump in immediately when credible, serious allegations surface about waste or corruption. As an example, he cited the possibility of a state employee doing political work on state time. [St. Louis Post Dispatch, 2/17/11]

  • Auditor’s Office Turns Blind Eye to Kinder Charging Taxpayers for Expensive Meals While At Personal/Political Activities

  • Auditor’s Office: "We Do Not Dispute" Kinder's Assumption That Meal Costs Would be Offset By "Excessive Reimbursement" of Lodging Costs. While the audit report admits that the review did not determine whether "the amounts paid for meals were appropriate" and "cannot conclude with certainty" that Kinder has fully reimbursed inappropriate meal costs, Otto closes the report with the following outrageous statement: "However, you have assumed that any possible reimbursement calculation of potentially questionable meals (meals total $10,893.13) would more than be offset by your excessive reimbursement of in-state lodging. The findings of our report do not dispute this assumption." [Audit Report, 7/6/11]

  • Reality: Taxpayers Have No Way of Knowing Whether Kinder's Payment Was "Excessive" or Would Cover Inappropriate Meal Costs. The fact remains that because of Kinder's office's continued refusal to release his public schedule and the auditor's outrageous willingness to give him the benefit of the doubt, taxpayers still have no way of knowing how much of their hard-earned money Kinder spent wining and dining himself across the state. Otto's acknowledgement that the report "cannot conclude with certainty that you have fully reimbursed the state" stands in direct conflict with the deputy auditor's unwillingness to "dispute [Kinder's] assumption." [Audit Report, 7/6/11]

  • Vin de Set is just one example. In June 2009, Kinder spent two nights at the Chase, charging taxpayers for his hotel stays as well as two lunches at Plaza Frontenac and a $55 dinner at Vin de Set, the rooftop restaurant on Chouteau Avenue that serves southern French cuisine. Kinder's official schedule for those two days in St. Louis lists an appearance on KMOX and a concert and VIP reception for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. [St. Louis Post Dispatch, 4/3/11]

  • Kinder Never Repaid Taxpayers for Costs to Take Him To/From Political and Personal Activities:

  • Auditor’s Office: Because Kinder Recently Stopped Getting Mileage Reimburements, They Don't Need to be Reviewed. According to the audito report, Kinder "subsequently ceased claiming mileage reimbursement and no mileage claims have been paid to you since May 2009. Therefore mileage reimbursements were not addressed for the purposes of this review." [Audit Report, 7/6/11]

  • Reality: Kinder Has Received More Than $12,000 in Mileage Reimbursements Since 2006. Despite the audit report's evasions, the fact remains that Peter Kinder has received more than $12,000 for in-state mileage reimbursements since 2006, and more than $8,000 in 2008 alone. Just because Kinder no longer seeks mileage reimbursements, Kinder shouldn't be let off the hook -- particularly given his evident disregard for ethics rules and sloppy record-keeping. [Missouri Accountability Portal, Accessed 7/6/11]

  • No Scrutiny Was Given to Kinder’s Schedule (public records) And It’s Being Kept From The Press and Public: 

  • Auditor’s Office: Kinder's Sloppy Record-Keeping Means We Don't Have to Perform a Thorough Audit. According to the report, Kinder's "documentation was not always complete or accurate as to the specifics of your scheduled events"... "Therefore we did not attempt to compare in-state lodging costs paid to you with activities or events scheduled on your calendar." [Audit Report, 7/6/11]

  • Reality: Auditor Has An Obligation to Ensure Taxpayers Are Made Whole -- Period. This audit practically provides a blueprint for any public officeholder seeking to live the high life on the taxpayers dime: just make sure your public schedule is unreliable, sloppy, and "cumbersome" to review, and the state auditor will simply give you the benefit of the doubt. In fact, Kinder himself repeatedly claimed that he kept detailed records delineating political from official events, and told the press in April that he could account for each event he attended. [Audit Report, 7/6/11; Kinder Press Conference, 4/5/11]
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