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State audit accuses Parson of misusing taxpayer dollars as lieutenant governor

A new report out Thursday says Parson's office paid travel costs for him to attend sporting and entertainment events and failed to maintain proper financial records.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's Democratic state auditor on Thursday called out Republican Gov. Mike Parson for being reimbursed for unnecessary travel and wasting taxpayer money during his time as lieutenant governor.

Auditor Nicole Galloway's report criticized Parson for getting reimbursed for travel expenses when he used his personal vehicle to travel to musical performances and shows in the tourist hotspot of Branson. The audit also notes that Parson was reimbursed for travel to a Kansas City Chiefs game.

Parson also was reimbursed about $580 for travel costs to or from his home in Bolivar, rather than his Jefferson City office.

In a response included with the audit, a governor's office's attorney wrote that Parson attended the events as part of his work to promote Missouri tourism. While the lieutenant governor is officially tasked with sitting on several state boards and advocating for seniors, Parson — like past lieutenant governors — also took on additional projects, such as promoting tourism and Missouri products.

Galloway conducted the audit as part of a closeout review that her office does whenever a statewide official leaves office.

Parson served as lieutenant governor from January 2017 to June 2018, when he assumed the governorship after former Gov. Eric Greitens resigned rather than fight possible impeachment.

The audit comes as Missouri politicos are waiting for Galloway — the only Democrat in statewide office — to announce if she'll run for governor in 2020. Parson has not yet said whether he'll run for re-election, but he's expected to do so.

The audit also questions why the lieutenant governor's office under Parson bought two vehicles rather than renting cars, reimbursing staff for mileage, or using a state-owned vehicle from the Office of Administration's fleet.

Galloway's office found the vehicles cost $33,000 and were rarely used. The audit notes that Parson's office could have saved about $2,100 by regularly using state software that calculates the most cost-effective way to travel for official business.

Parson's attorney said the office bought the vehicles to transport large items and multiple employees to events related to his work promoting tourism.

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