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story.lead_photo.caption In this Feb. 29, 2019 file photo, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

Document: Office of Attorney General State Audit

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Former Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley's office received a "fair" rating for its operations between January 2017 and January 2019, according to a closeout audit released Aug. 7 by Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway's office.

Closeout audits of Missouri public officials' tenures are customary to review offices' operations and financial activity under their administrations.

Hawley resigned 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.

Galloway's closeout audit looked at the period between Jan. 9, 2017, through Jan. 3, 2019.

"The audit found the Attorney General's Office did not always take adequate measures to minimize travel costs, and could not provide documentation to support the prior approval of relocation expenses," according to a news release from Galloway's office.

"The audit also reported the office did not maintain complete and accurate vehicle usage logs and did not make use of available tools to determine the most cost-effective option for vehicle use. The audit also discussed lack of written engagement letters with some outside counsel and expert witnesses, found the office had not established policies and procedures over accounts receivable collections and records, and identified procedural weaknesses over capital assets and payroll."

On travel costs, the audit reviewed seven trips that included one to three employees, covering 24 lodging nights.

One of those trips — for three employees for nine nights — was to attend a conference in Portland, Oregon, in June 2018. The audit found the lodging costs "exceeded the conference rate by $1,840, or an average of $204 per night."

"Trip documentation showed AGO personnel reserved the rooms after the deadline. AGO personnel could not provide documentation explaining why the higher lodging costs were necessary and reasonable," according to the audit.

The other six trips reviewed had lodging costs less than or equal to federally established per diem maximum lodging rates for federal employees or conference room rates.

On relocation expenses, Galloway's office found Hawley's office reimbursed five employees for relocation expenses totaling $33,328 during his term as attorney general. But documentation could not be provided to support prior approval for those reimbursements.

The auditor's office found 19 percent of 144 trips for seven attorney general's office vehicles had incomplete or inaccurate usage log records.

Problems included that "mileage for 19 trips was excessive when compared to actual miles between the recorded trip origin and destination. For example, beginning and ending odometer readings recorded for a round trip from Jefferson City to Lebanon indicate the vehicle was driven 526 miles, while the actual round trip mileage between these cities is approximately 180 miles."

The report also includes a written response from Hawley's attorney, Brian W. Barnes. His response includes: "The audit report's recommendations could have saved taxpayers at most about one half of one percent of the office's annual budget — a fraction of the sum Attorney General Hawley was able to save through responsible stewardship of the office's resources. Even that estimate of the potential savings from the report's recommendations requires indulging some unrealistic assumptions."

The response also includes: "The audit uncovered no evidence of mismanagement or fraud or illegal activity, and the report's bottom line is that the office was responsibly managed during Attorney General Hawley's tenure."

Galloway's office released a report this year on whether Hawley had used public funds to support his candidacy for U.S. Senate — after her office was asked to in December 2018 by Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, following a complaint.

That report found "no clear violation of state law," according to Galloway, though she noted a lack of transparency of the relationships and communications between former Attorney General's Office officials and campaign consultants gave the appearance that non-office-related business may have been discussed and that state resources may have been used improperly.

Hawley criticized Galloway and her office for weeks ahead of that report's release for perceived bias in the preparation of the audit.

Those allegations led to a Missouri House of Representatives hearing, 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 in August 2018 to the McCaskill campaign.

After the latest report, Hawley once again defended his former office and criticized Galloway on Twitter.

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