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Auditor subpoenas Revenue records

Auditor subpoenas Revenue records

April 20th, 2017 by Bob Watson in Missouri News
Nicole Galloway

Nicole Galloway

Photo by Julie Smith /News Tribune.

Accusing Gov. Eric Greitens' administration of failing to be transparent about government operations, State Auditor Nicole Galloway on Wednesday issued a subpoena demanding refund information from the state Department of Revenue.

"If the new administration intends to operate state government behind a wall of secrecy," she told reporters during a 20-minute noon news conference in her Capitol office, "I will use the full authority of my office to ensure transparency and accountability."

State law gives the auditor the power to issue a subpoena "insofar as necessary to conduct an audit," and to ask the courts to enforce that subpoena "if any person refuses to comply with" it.

Galloway said the subpoena was served on the Revenue department at 11:45 a.m. Wednesday, asking the department to meet with the auditor's staff and a court reporter at 9 a.m. April 28 in the Truman State Office Building — "and to bring with them the documents that are responsive to our request for information."

If the department does not show up as required by the subpoena, the auditor said, her staff will ask the Cole County Circuit Court to order the state to provide the information.

"It's my hope that it doesn't come to that," Galloway said. "It is my hope that we'll be able to get this information and we'll be able to complete the audit and show that the Department of Revenue is processing refunds the way that they should."

Galloway said she began an audit six weeks ago, and asked the department to provide information she's entitled to receive under state law — including the department's compliance with a 2015 law change requiring it to pay interest on taxpayer refunds not returned to the taxpayer within 45 days.

"To date, I have received no records from the Department of Revenue," she said. "Nothing."

On Monday evening, the department "agreed to provide some of the requested information," Galloway said. "However, they are refusing to provide any information about their compliance with the tax refund law related to this, current year.

"Without this information, my office cannot determine if the department is giving taxpayers their refunds on time, or paying the interest owed to Missourians."

Galloway said she's not trying to get individual taxpayers' information, "just the total number of refunds processed and whether they were processed in a timely fashion. We want to know if the department is complying with state law (and) how the department is ensuring Missourians received all of the money that they are owed."

None of the correspondence she's received from the department gave a specific reason it wouldn't provide the information it acknowledges it has, she said.

Galloway said she didn't take the idea of issuing a subpoena lightly, noting the one issued Wednesday was her first since she became auditor two years ago.

"However, given very recent and very unusual uncooperative behavior on the part of the administration," the auditor explained, "I felt that this was an essential step to ensure accountability and transparency from state government."

Galloway's staff provided information that previous Auditor Tom Schweich issued 38 subpoenas involving 13 audits during the nearly 50 months he served as auditor before his suicide in February 2015.

She said Greitens' office was directly involved in the communications with the auditor's office about the Revenue audit — and also had not complied with requests for information needed to complete the "close-out" audit of former Gov. Jay Nixon's administration.

"It is a very routine thing that auditors have done, traditionally, for years and years," Galloway said, "(but) we're not getting the previous administration's records from the new administration."

Although close-out audits aren't required, she explained, they're useful so "the new administration knows what the issues of the past are and has the ability to address them — and then (does) not have to carry those forward or be responsible for those (past) items."

Neither the Department of Revenue nor Greitens' office responded to requests for comment on the auditor's comments and the subpoena.