U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley has been critical of how state Auditor Nicole Galloway is conducting a closeout audit of his former state office, contending that the Democratic official has been treating him unfairly.
Galloway’s office directly addressed some of Hawley’s objections on Wednesday about the unreleased audit, noting that a staffer overseeing the look into his two-year tenure as attorney general was replaced to avoid any appearance of bias. Galloway’s director of quality control told House lawmakers that he doesn’t believe any bias occurred during the audit.
Hawley’s tenure as attorney general ended in early 2019 after he defeated then-U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill. Hawley said in an interview with St. Louis Public Radio earlier this month that he “was very pleased with the conclusion of the audit.“ But he added “various pieces of information have come to light” about Galloway’s closeout audit “that are extremely, extremely disturbing, to put it mildly.”
Among other things, Hawley objected to how the person overseeing the audit, Bobby Showers, donated to McCaskill, a Democrat, and wrote in a social media post that any senator who doesn’t vote to impeach President Donald Trump “will go down in history as not fulfilling their oath to their country."
Hawley, a Republican, also noted that Galloway hired McCaskill’s campaign manager, David Kirby, as a legislative liaison.
“I think these questions about what’s going on in her office are really important ones, and I just think it’s important that we have an independent auditor that’s actually discharging the duties of her office as the constitutional laws require,” Hawley said.
Jon Hawles, director of quality control for the auditor’s office, told members of the House Special Committee on Government Oversight on Wednesday that Showers was removed as the overseer of the Hawley audit. He said he’s been overseeing the audit, which he added is ongoing.
“He was removed because the situations described presented the appearance that his work might not be independent,” Hawles said. “Not that it was not independent. Just that it made the appearance that it might not be.”
Galloway general counsel Paul Harper said Kirby had “explicitly excluded himself from this audit.” Galloway said in a statement that “employees of the Auditor's Office never discussed the audit with him, nor did Mr. Kirby discuss it with them.”
"Audit findings result from sufficient evidence and facts found during the course of audit work and in accordance with auditing standards,” Galloway said. “It is simply not true that there was any political bias or impropriety during the audit process.”
She added that state law bars her from talking about findings in an audit until it’s released.
"The Auditor's Office looks forward to presenting the findings of the audit when it becomes public in the coming weeks," she said.
Hawley has also criticized an email from a member of the auditor’s office, Pam Allison, talking to a staffer from the attorney general’s office.
The message was in response to a question about confidentiality with expert witnesses and other services in litigation. Allison inadvertently sent an email to the attorney general’s office saying she would “drop the confidentiality paragraph in the report and beef up the personal email/personal calendar section.”
Hawley said that email “calls into question the basic integrity of the office.”
“I think it’s really, really disturbing,” he said.
In a response to a question from Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon, at Wednesday’s hearing, Hawles said there are “probably at least four levels of review that are done of every report.” He also added there “are significant changes from beginning to end for every report.”
“That’s not unusual,” Hawles said. “In the specific circumstance that you’re talking about there, we looked at the email, we talked to the staff involved. With that, we determined there was no impropriety at all in relationship to that email.”
Question of political bias
Hawles said during the committee hearing that many staffers remained in the auditor’s office when the officeholder switched from Republican to Democrat. He pointed to himself an example of this, as he mentioned he’s a Republican serving under a Democratic statewide officeholder.
State Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, asked Hawles in his two weeks of overseeing the audit if he’s found any “actual bias in the course of the audit.” Hawles replied, “I have not identified anything.”
“From the beginning, I don’t believe there was any bias that occurred throughout the audit. But again, what we’re doing in making the change was to eliminate the appearance of any of that,” Hawles said, referring to how he replaced Showers in overseeing the Hawley audit.
After the hearing, reporters asked House Oversight Committee Chairman Robert Ross if Wednesday’s hearing was an attempt to discredit Galloway’s audit before it was released. The Yukon Republican replied: “Not from our end of this.”
“This discussion of the appearance of bias potentially — it’s a big deal with our audits,” Ross said. “We use audits for all sorts of things. And we have to know that we can trust or rely on that information.”
Asked whether his criticisms of Galloway’s office were meant to get ahead of revelations in the audit, Hawley said: “I can’t control what other people do. But I wanted my response to be out and available to the public.”
He said that after Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft looked into how some of Hawley’s campaign staffers communicated with taxpayer-funded staff, he publicly released emails on the matter.
“I’m just doing the same thing here,” Hawley said. “I’ve got nothing to hide.”
Ashcroft ended an investigation last year into whether Hawley used the attorney general’s office to boost his Senate bid, concluding there’s not “reasonable trustworthy information that an offense has been committed.”
St. Louis Public Radio reporter Jaclyn Driscoll contributed to this article.
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