JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is paying nearly half of his 29 staff members from departments outside the office of governor.
That's according to the Kansas City Star, which says Nixon also is paying many top aides more than their predecessors received under former Gov. Matt Blunt.
But Nixon administration officials say Blunt, a Republican, forced their hand to take money from other departments by busting the governor's budget before leaving office.
They also defend the six-figure salaries, which they say pay for talent, and come at the expense of several lower-level positions typically employed by the office.
Audits from 1995, 1998, 2001, 2005 and 2008 found similar patterns.
Records show that a lot of Nixon's staff is being paid out of the budget for the Office of Administration, the managerial arm of government. In all, $589, 441 is being paid from the budget to 12 staff members in this fiscal year, which ends on June 30.
Nixon's spokesperson Jack Cardetti said that it is unlikely that the office of the governor would follow the auditors recommendation anytime soon.
But critics say the salaries are irresponsible during a recession and that putting them in other departments raises accountability and transparency concerns.