Our Opinion: Audit timing tainted by political aroma

News Tribune editorial

The timing of a recent state audit has a political aroma.

State Auditor Tom Schweich released an audit Wednesday criticizing Gov. Jay Nixon for sticking other state agencies with $1.7 million in bills for costs incurred by his own office, staff and travel.

We don’t defend these practices by the Democratic governor.

But the timing of the Republican auditor’s release — about two months before the November election — smacks of politics.

The audit of Nixon’s office covers a period that began when he took office in January 2009 and continued through 2011.

And findings in the audit largely are “old news.”

We criticized the governor severely when the billing revelations first were disclosed not by a state official, but by The Associated Press.

In this forum on June 4, 2009 — more than three years ago — we described the governor as a “frequent flyer” and “flying freeloader” for his prolific air travel at the expense of other agencies.

We repeated criticism in this forum on July 6, 2010 — more than two years ago — and we commended lawmakers on Feb. 24, 2011, for their efforts to bring greater transparency to the governor’s travel records and expenses.

The response by the governor’s office to the recent audit was disappointing. In a written response, the governor’s office said it “accounts for its operational costs in a manner that properly reflects the nature of the work it performs.”

That strikes us as vague, cavalier government-speak.

But the timing of Schweich’s audit suggests political piling-on — resurrecting a gubernatorial vulnerability for the purpose of firing partisan broadsides.

We encourage our office-holders to avoid campaign mud and reclaim higher ground.

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