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After review, Kinder pays additional $1,889 to cover lodging expenses

After review, Kinder pays additional $1,889 to cover lodging expenses

July 6th, 2011 in News


Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder has now repaid the state more than $54,000 to cover in-state hotel expenses, but an auditor's review released Wednesday concluded that inadequate records make it impossible to tell how much of Kinder's costs were for official business versus personal or political activities.

The auditor's office made no determination whether it was appropriate for the state to pay for Kinder's travel expenses. It found that Kinder's office had slightly miscalculated the amount due the state under his goal of repaying every in-state lodging reimbursement he received over the past six years in office.

Kinder wrote the state a $52,300 check in April. He paid an additional $1,888.63 late Tuesday after getting an advance draft of the auditor's report.

"We received the auditor's letter and immediately processed payment for the amount they identified was necessary to have fully paid for all in-state lodging, even though such payment is not legally required," said Kinder's campaign attorney, Jared Craighead. "We consider this matter closed."

The Republican lieutenant governor, who is expected to challenge Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon in the 2012 elections, pledged to repay the state after the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in April that he had spent hundreds of nights at St. Louis hotels at taxpayer expense. The newspaper reported that some of those hotel stays occurred while Kinder attended sporting events, society galas and a tea party rally, and some of Kinder's expense reports listed no official reason for his stays.

Kinder has said all of his hotel stays were related to official events, even if he also attended personal or political functions after the end of his official working day.

Deputy Auditor Harry Otto, who led the review of Kinder's expenses, said the archived electronic version of Kinder's daily calendar contained no notations on which activities were for official, political or personal purposes. He said it also was difficult to match events to particular days, because the computer archived them by the entry date and not the activity date. Otto also said Kinder's office did not keep paper copies of his schedule, though he declined to say whether the office should have done so.

"In a perfect world, we would have several calendars to look at," Otto said. "We would have a political calendar to look at; we would have a state business calendar."

The auditor's review drew no conclusions about whether Kinder's expenses were for appropriate official state business. It noted an additional $1,888 was due to cover in-state travel expenses because Kinder's office miscoded some expenses and failed to account for reimbursements he received from state agencies besides the lieutenant governor's office.

The review also noted that Kinder received $10,893.13 in reimbursements for meals. State travel policies allow meal reimbursements only when employees stay overnight or are traveling for at least 12 continuous hours. Otto said Kinder's calendar lacked the detail to determine whether those criteria were met.

"If the auditor wants all statewide elected officials to keep their calendars in a certain format, they need to inform them of that before they're critical of what statewide officials do," Craighead said.

Although Kinder's repayment was based on his in-state lodging costs, it's intended to cover any expense reimbursements - including those for meals and travel - that anyone might find objectionable, Craighead said. He said Kinder does not plan to also repay all his meal costs.

Missouri Democratic Party spokeswoman Caitlin Legacki said an independent audit still is needed to determine how much of Kinder's state travel reimbursements were for political and personal reasons.

"If those were unclear on Kinder's schedule, shouldn't it be the auditor's job to find those answers?" Legacki said.

The auditor's office review was led by Otto because state Auditor Tom Schweich recused himself from decisions involving Kinder. Schweich, a Republican, received $220,000 from Kinder while campaigning for the 2010 auditor's election.

Otto, a Jefferson City Republican who ran unsuccessfully for state Senate last year, contributed $200 to Kinder's lieutenant governor campaign in 2004. But Otto said that was so small and so long ago that he didn't believe it tainted his review of Kinder's expenses.

Democratic Auditor Susan Montee conducted a similar review of travel expenses for then-Attorney General Nixon when he was running for governor several years ago. That review occurred after Nixon paid the state $47,000 in 2007 for using a state vehicle and employees for political purposes. Nixon's gubernatorial campaign paid the state an additional $8,618 after the auditor's review determined the original amount was insufficient.

Montee conducted the review upon Nixon's request. But Kinder did not request an auditor's review of his payment.