JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former Missouri county commissioner plotted ways to skirt open meeting rules and tried to get a county employee to do work for his political action committee, according to a state audit report released Tuesday.
The Missouri Auditor's Office report follows ethics complaints made against the Invest in Greene County Political Action Committee, which was spearheaded by former Greene County Presiding Commissioner Bob Cirtin to push a 2017 local sales tax increase. Cirtin was voted out of office in 2018.
The audit was done on the commission, which serves the Springfield area.
Auditor Nicole Galloway found that Greene County taxpayers footed $35,000 in bills related to ethics complaints against the PAC. The state audit determined that Cirtin used his county email to ask county employees to volunteer for the PAC.
Cirtin also asked a county spokeswoman to get a quote on a newspaper ad for the PAC, which she refused to do, according to the audit report.
“Bob, You’re using County resources to give me an order as my boss to work on behalf of the PAC," she wrote in an October 2017 email included in the report. “Is this not a clear violation of the ethical guidelines set forth by the Ethic Commission?”
The communications director was not named in the audit.
Emails obtained by the Auditor's Office show that Cirtin tried to skirt open meeting rules as he was forming the PAC in order to avoid attention from the area newspaper, the Springfield News-Leader.
“Friends: If we have a meeting with two or more commissioners present we would have to post it as an open meeting," Cirtin wrote to other county officials in September 2017. "This would NOT be a good idea because we cannot run the risk of media attending. We can’t have our sausage making appear in the News Leader.”
Cirtin didn't immediately return a request for comment on Tuesday.
Galloway's office also found that Greene County taxpayers footed about $35,000 in legal expenses related to Missouri ethics complaints against the PAC.
The county didn't get quotes for legal services or compare multiple law firms and didn't enter into a contract with one of the law firms that helped with the ethics complaints, the audit found.
In a response included in the audit, the current County Commission indicated that the legal services were exempt from bidding rules but pledged to “solicit proposals for professional services in the right circumstances." It also said it would enter into written contracts for paid services and update its policy to require documentation of the reasoning behind waiving procurement requirements.