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Barnes seeks to block payment of Greitens' lawyers

Barnes seeks to block payment of Greitens' lawyers

June 12th, 2018 by Bob Watson in Missouri News

Republican Rep. Jay Barnes addresses reporters Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 during a press conference in the House Lounge of the Missouri Capitol.

Photo by Emil Lippe /News Tribune.

Document: Rep. Jay Barnes' letter to OA commissioner

Missouri's Office of Administration should "refuse" to pay any bills submitted by lawyers Eddie Greim and Ross Garber, state Rep. Jay Barnes said in a letter to OA Commissioner Sarah Steelman, dated June 11.

Missouri's Office of Administration should "refuse" to pay any bills submitted by lawyers Eddie Greim and Ross Garber, state Rep. Jay Barnes said in a letter to OA Commissioner Sarah Steelman.

"Instead of placing the burden on Missouri taxpayers, those legal fees should be borne exclusively by Eric Greitens himself," Barnes said at the beginning of the three-page letter, dated Monday and released to reporters Tuesday.

But Greim told the News Tribune Tuesday afternoon: "The OA Commissioner has a clear legal duty to pay our invoices. Before undertaking this engagement, we reviewed the authority of the Office of the Governor to hire and pay counsel. We know that Missouri stands behind lawful contracts. We remain confident that cooler heads will prevail and the state will pay our invoices."

Barnes, R-Jefferson City, chaired the House Special Investigative Committee on Oversight, which House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, created at the end of February to investigate Greitens' legal situation.

In his letter to Steelman, Barnes noted Greim, of Kansas City, and Garber, of Connecticut, told the House committee they were hired to represent both Greitens in his official capacity as governor and the "Office of the Governor" during the committee's meetings.

At that May 16 hearing — before lawmakers ended their regular session, but after they'd agreed to call themselves into a special session beginning May 18 — Greim told the committee he was charging the state $340 an hour for his work on the governor's case, while Garber said his contract was for $320 an hour, "which is half of my normal rate."

Barnes noted in his letter to Steelman that "Garber and Greim have reportedly submitted bills to Missouri taxpayers in the amount of $153,300."

When lawmakers last month called themselves into that special session "for the sole purpose of considering the findings and recommendations" of the special House committee, "including but not limited to, disciplinary actions against" the governor, Richardson authorized the committee to recommend whether Greitens should be impeached — and the Missouri Constitution says the only punishment for being convicted of impeachment articles is removal from office.

But, Barnes wrote, the governor's office didn't need Greim's and Garber's legal services, because "The 'Office of the Governor' as an entity is unaffected by any impeachment proceeding. Instead, it exists in perpetuity, regardless of the particular individual who holds the office."

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Barnes compared the governor's office to a "chair in which the elected official sits. When a judgment of impeachment is entered, the individual officeholder is removed from the chair, but the chair remains, and a new occupant takes his or her seat.

"Thus, in an impeachment proceeding, there is no need for any counsel to represent the 'Office of the Governor' because there is no action that can be taken in an impeachment proceeding that affects the power of the perpetual 'Office of the Governor.'"

Greim disagreed.

"There is no question that in impeachment and other constitutionally significant proceedings, the Office itself has an interest in ensuring that impeachment is confined to the role specified by the Missouri Constitution," he said.

"If impeachment becomes too easy — such as when hearings are no longer used for investigating or allowed to devolve into shouting matches and political theater — the Office of the Governor is diminished, the General Assembly accretes a dangerous level of power, and the careful balance struck by the Constitution is endangered."

Barnes told Steelman the lawyers' contracts appeared to violate state law, which "expressly prohibits executive officials, including the governor, from participating, 'directly or indirectly,' in government contracting decisions when they know that the result of such decision 'may be the acceptance of the performance of a service to that agency for consideration in excess of five hundred dollars' value to him unless the transaction is made pursuant to an award on a contract let after public notice.'"

Violating that law could be charged as a Class B misdemeanor crime, he noted.

And, Barnes reminded Steelman, the first sentence in Greim's contract acceptance letter cited "the decision Governor Eric Greitens, in his official capacity, has made to engage our Firm as legal counsel."

Barnes said the contract was for more than $500, so it should have been bid but wasn't, and that Greitens directly benefited from the lawyers' work.

And that benefit also violated Greitens' second executive order, issued Jan. 9, 2017 — the day he was inaugurated.

Under Executive Order 17-02, Barnes wrote, no executive branch employee "shall participate in a decision in which the state employee's impartiality might be reasonably questioned due to the stale employee's personal or financial relationship with a participant in the proceeding" — and the contracts with Greim and Garber appear to violate that, because "Eric Greitens had an obvious personal relationship with a participant in the proceedings in question - i.e. himself."

Greim told the News Tribune on Tuesday: "We represented the Office of the Governor in responding to subpoenas the House issued to me as counsel for the Office of the Governor. These roles are clearly appropriate for official counsel, and there is an appropriation for the Office of the Governor that covers legal services and is sufficient to pay our bill."

Greim noted Greitens also "hired personal counsel, whose role was to argue the facts and defend him against impeachment," and they are being paid privately "and will not be paid by taxpayers."

Greim said he and Garber were not hired to be his personal or "private" counsel, "and anyone who claims to the contrary is intentionally misstating the facts."

An OA spokeswoman told The Associated Press it still is reviewing the bills.

Barnes told Steelman: "I believe you have an obligation to withhold all payment to Mssrs. Garber and Greim.

"Missouri taxpayers should not be on the hook for lawyers that Eric Greitens used for his own personal purposes."