Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway released a report Thursday that found no clear evidence of state laws being broken, but it did find then-Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley appeared to have used state resources for political purposes.
The state auditor's report — a more than 450-page document full of correspondence and transcribed interviews — found Hawley's staff coordinated with campaign-paid consultants and used campaign resources to meet with consultants for purposes not always documented.
The audit also noted Hawley used a state vehicle and driver/security detail for some trips for which the purpose was not documented on travel itineraries and state vehicle mileage logs.
The audit stated at least a portion of some of the trips had political purposes and other trips had the appearance of being "personal in nature."
Galloway said at a news conference Thursday the report is the first of two planned to review Hawley's tenure as the state's attorney general. She said the second, to focus on the operations of the office during Hawley's tenure — rather than on whether Hawley used state resources for political purposes — is expected in the coming months.
Hawley resigned from his position as attorney general to serve as one of Missouri's two Republican U.S. senators, after he defeated incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill in November 2018.
Closeout audits of Missouri public officials' tenures are customary to review offices' operations and financial activity under their administrations.
Missouri Secretary of State John "Jay" Ashcroft asked Galloway in December 2018 to add to the closeout audit of Hawley's office an investigation in whether Hawley had used public funds to support his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, following a complaint.
Ashcroft wrote to Galloway, "Your office's experience in this area is demonstrated by your audit of the Missouri Governor's Office in 2017, in which you found that Governor Nixon used state resources for political and personal purposes."
Ashcroft added, "As Auditor, you have free access to the Attorney General's Office for this audit, as well as subpoena power over persons and documents," citing state law.
However, it's clear from some of the correspondence included in Thursday's report between lawyers in the state auditor and attorney general's offices last year the state attorney general's office — under current Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt — disagreed about the scope of a state auditor's authority.
"Our Office's position is that you cannot interview any former employee of our office without our Office present. As the holder of the attorney-client privilege, our Office has the authority to object to any inquiry that may implicate the privilege," emailed Justin Smith, deputy attorney general for special litigation, to Paul Harper, general counsel for the state auditor's office.
Smith added while Missouri higher courts have not directly addressed the issue, the attorney general's office's position was supported by "persuasive authority," and he cited state of Louisiana case law.
Galloway said Thursday subpoenas were not issued to gather the information for the report.
"There is no clear violation of state law," she said of the report's ultimate conclusion; however, the report notes most of the communications between Hawley's campaign and public office staff "were conducted via private communication channels," making it difficult to determine what exactly those interactions were about.
"The lack of transparency of the relationships and communications between the campaign-paid consultants and former AGO officials give the appearance that non-AGO business may have been discussed and not retained, and that state resources may have been used improperly," the report added.
For weeks — ahead of the release of the report Thursday — Hawley has been criticizing Galloway and her office for perceived bias in the preparation of the audit.
He took to social media last month to accuse Galloway's office of changing and manipulating the audit to make it more critical of him, and he alleged conflicts of interest involving Galloway's Democratic campaign for governor and interactions and relationships between office staff and McCaskill's Denate re-election campaign.
Hawley's accusations led to Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, sending a letter of concern about the integrity of Galloway's office to Gov. Mike Parson.
The allegations also led to a Missouri House hearing last month, where Galloway's staff testified there was no evidence of bias in the audit — though action had been taken to address the appearance of impropriety, by removing the director of the audit and replacing him with the office's director of quality control, after Hawley noted the audit director had donated $50 to the McCaskill campaign in August 2018.
On Thursday, Hawley's campaign announced a formal complaint was being filed with the Missouri State Board of Accountancy, "regarding State Auditor Nicole Galloway's misconduct" that Hawley has alleged was involved with the audit.
Galloway is licensed as a certified public accountant, with the associated address being the Missouri State Auditor's Office. The license is set to expire in September.
Galloway said any complaint filed would not affect the day-to-day operations of her office.