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2 state officials sworn-in Monday

2 state officials sworn-in Monday

January 15th, 2019 by Bob Watson in News

Nicole Galloway, left, is sworn in as Missouri State Auditor during a brief ceremony Monday in the Capitol rotunda. Delivering the oath of office is Judge Mary R. Russell of the Missouri Supreme Court. Galloway was joined by her husband, Jon Galloway, and sons William, 7, Benjamin, 5, and Joseph, 2. Galloway was appointed auditor by then-Gov. Jay Nixon following the death of Tom Schweich. She was elected in November 2018 to continue in that role.

Photo by Julie Smith /News Tribune.

Separate ceremonies were held Monday in the Capitol Rotunda for two statewide officials taking their oaths of office.

State Auditor Nicole Galloway was sworn-in for the four-year term she won from voters in the Nov. 6 general election.

State law sets "noon on the second Monday in January" after the election as the date and time for the auditor's term to begin.

The second ceremony was for former state Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, to become Missouri's new state treasurer.

Fitzpatrick had been re-elected to a fourth two-year term in the state House, where he had been the Budget Committee chairman.

However, Attorney General Josh Hawley's election last November to the U.S. Senate prompted Gov. Mike Parson to appoint State Treasurer Eric Schmitt to succeed Hawley in the attorney general's office for the next two years — and then to choose Fitzpatrick to succeed Schmitt as treasurer for the final two years of that term.

His swearing-in ceremony took place at 3:30 p.m. Monday.

Parson and Schmitt attended both programs, along with some legislative leaders.

Former Gov. Bob Holden was among the more than 180 people in the audience for Galloway's inauguration.

More than 200 attended Fitzpatrick's swearing-in ceremony, including Galloway, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, and former Treasurers Sarah Steelman — now the commissioner of the Office of Administration — and Wendell Bailey.

Galloway begins full auditor's term

Galloway, 36, started her new, four-year term with the announcement that she's creating a "Public Corruption and Fraud Division" in the auditor's office.

"This division will have dedicated auditors and attorneys, law enforcement professionals, forensic auditing specialists and certified fraud examiners," she explained during her seven-minute address following her taking the oath of office. "We will use technology and data analytics to target and uncover theft and fraud.

"My team will have the tools, resources and expertise to expose wrongdoing."

Galloway was elected to a full term as auditor in November, after serving 45 months as Gov. Jay Nixon's appointee to the office, following previous auditor Tom Schweich's suicide in February 2015.

She noted her office has already pursued fraud complaints against local officials.

"We have identified over $300 million in government waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement," Galloway reported. "And because of our audits, 38 criminal counts have been brought against corrupt public officials in this state.

"As a result of my office's work, government officials have been kicked out of office, received felony convictions and made to repay the money stolen from taxpayers."

Without using names, Galloway identified three cases that cost Missouri taxpayers nearly $90.5 million — including the case of former Callaway County Collector Pam Oestreich, who stole "more than $300,000," she said. "When citizens paid their taxes in cash, she would simply pocket the money for herself.

"Meanwhile, I know there are families making tough decisions on how to pay their rent or their mortgage, or afford childcare."

Galloway also cited a Putnam County Hospital case that has drawn national attention.

"An out-of-state management company ran a $90 million billing scheme through the county-owned hospital," she explained in her speech. "Federal investigations were launched after the practice was exposed.

"Throughout the country, small, rural hospitals have been targeted and put at risk. At the same time, citizens face higher health care costs and fewer options for emergency medical care."

Galloway told reporters after her inauguration: "There is more (fraud) out there.

"More and more, in an increasing way, citizens and law enforcement officials are asking for our forensic auditing expertise, when there's theft or wrongdoing in government."

She "absolutely (will) not" ask lawmakers to increase the auditor's budget to pay for the unit, Galloway said.

However, she repeated her call for lawmakers to send Gov. Mike Parson a "public corruption" bill that, Galloway said, would benefit her office and local officials.

"Even when there's known fraud or public corruption occurring at the local level," she told reporters, "my office does not, always, have the authority to come in and do an audit.

"Let's say the mayor or a member of the board of aldermen are stealing from taxpayers — they would have to vote to allow my office to come in, and that is just so unlikely."

A bipartisan group of county prosecutors supports the idea, she told reporters and said in her speech.

Lawmakers passed the idea two years ago, but then-Gov. Eric Greitens vetoed it.

"So, we're going to be back again to get that done," she said, adding she's talked with Parson about it, but did not say whether he committed to supporting it.

Fitzpatrick considering treasurer moves

Fitzpatrick, 31, reminded reporters he's had only three weeks to get ready for his new job.

"The first thing we're going to do," he said, "is just really get a firm grasp on the day-to-day functions and the operations, and (doing) the daily business of the treasurer's office.

"We're still in a staff-hiring mode."

Eventually, he said in his eight-minute speech, he'll get together with his transition team "to discuss initiatives and policy ideas, as well as perform a review of the office."

He and Schmitt have talked about the overall office operations, although "not specifically about the initiatives he was most proud of," Fitzpatrick told reporters.

He expects his biggest change will be "not being in the Legislature anymore, and having to go 'kiss the ring' in order for my budget to get passed."

Fitzpatrick thanked Parson for the appointment and, in his speech, said: "In appointing me, he has placed a tremendous amount of faith in me, and I'm going to work every single day to prove to Missouri he made the right decision."

He also thanked the treasurer's office staff.

"The work you do is important and you are appreciated," he said. "One of the most valuable lessons I have learned in business is that the most valuable asset of any successful organization is the people who work there.

"A strong workforce is essential to the operations of the Treasurer's Office, and I will not take you for granted."

Fitzpatrick noted he started his first business, "installing dock accessories for people in and around Shell Knob," while he was still in high school. "By the time I finished college, that company had grown to employ over 30 people, and I had acquired licenses to work in quite a few states.

"Now, as a result of hard work and dedication of all the people who work there, it has grown to become one of the largest and most recognized names in the marina industry with customers all across America, and that's something I am really proud of."

He said he first ran for office to help improve the relationship between government and the people it's supposed to serve, because "government works for the people, not the other way around. And people deserve lightning-speed responsiveness from the government when they are trying to overcome a hurdle put in front of them by that government."

He said the state treasurer should be "a protector of state funds so that Missouri schools can continue to be fully funded, Missouri businesses can continue to grow, and Missouri families can continue to prosper — all which will ensure Missouri will continue to thrive."