State Auditor blasts St. Louis newspaper editorial

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Missouri News Horizon
-- State Auditor Tom Schweich has called a news conference to criticize a St. Louis newspaper for an editorial that is sharply critical of Schweich’s lawsuit against Governor Nixon’s state budget withholdings for disaster recovery.

Tuesday’s edition of the St. Louis Post Dispatch carried an editorial with the headline: “Auditor’s lawsuit values his budget over victims of Joplin tornado.”

In part, the editorial says that Schweich is arguing that “(t)he governor is wrong to cut the auditor's budget to pay for rebuilding the devastation caused by the Joplin tornado.That's right. Mr. Schweich wants the court and the public to believe that his budget is more important than helping a city rebuild from one of the worst natural disasters in our state's history.”

In his lawsuit, Schweich cites his office as being aggrieved by a $300,000 withholding by the governor. Schweich says that was done so that he could establish legal standing on which to file the suit.

Schweich denies a personal agenda and bristles at the notion that he values his own budget above helping Joplin recover from the May 22 tornado.

“I’ve got extended family down there,” said Schweich. “I’ve been down there, I’ve given them accounting advice, I’ve met with the people, I’ve extended my sympathy and my empathy towards them, and for (the Post Dispatch) to write an article saying I don’t care about them is corrupt, dishonest and a total disservice to the people of Missouri.”  

The auditor is seeking a retraction and apology from the paper.

Schweich says he filed the suit to get a legal opinion on whether the governor has the right to withhold $172 million from the State Budget, even though he announced the withholdings before the budget technically went into effect.

Several Republican lawmakers have been critical of the governor’s withholdings in recent weeks, saying they are not necessary with few hard numbers to back up the need to withhold the specific amount. 

Schweich denies the suit is political. He says he would have filed suit against a Republican governor in the same situation.

“With 100 percent certainty,” said Schweich. “As long  as I thought the withholds were occurring without accounting data, and in violation of the separation of powers, and before the fiscal year had begun.”