Missouri auditor's office to review Kinder's travel

Thursday, April 28, 2011 | 6:59 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri auditor's office said Thursday that it will review whether Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder properly calculated a $52,320 check he wrote to the state to cover potentially questionable travel reimbursements.

Deputy Auditor Harry Otto said the review will focus primarily on Kinder's math and methodology in determining his payment — not on whether each reimbursement Kinder had received for lodging, meals or travel was appropriate based on the breakdown of official, political or personal functions he attended.

"We don't intend to drill into a calendar and make a determination with respect to whether a trip was 82.5 percent state and 17.5 percent non-state business," Otto said. Rather, he added, "we want to see the supporting documents that justify the calculation that office has made."

Kinder's travel came under scrutiny following a report earlier this month by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Kinder had charged taxpayers a total of $35,050 for at least 329 nights at hotels in the St. Louis area since 2006. Kinder has insisted all the trips involved official business, though he has acknowledged attending personal and political functions either before or after his official duties.

The Republican lieutenant governor, who is expected to challenge Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon next year, initially pledged that his campaign would pay the state an amount equal to the hotel reimbursements reported in the newspaper. On Tuesday, Kinder instead wrote a personal check in an amount that his campaign said was roughly equal to his total instate lodging costs but was intended to cover any potentially questionable travel reimbursement.

Kinder campaign attorney Jared Craighead said "the lieutenant governor welcomes the review" and will provide any information sought by auditors.

Ultimately, "I think the auditor is going to say he paid way too much money" to the state than was necessary to cover questionable travel costs, Craighead said.

The decision to review Kinder's travel reimbursements was made by the deputy auditor because Republican State Auditor Tom Schweich recused himself from decisions involving Kinder. Schweich received $220,000 from Kinder during last year's campaign.

Otto, a Jefferson City Republican who ran unsuccessfully for state Senate last year, contributed $200 to Kinder's lieutenant governor campaign in 2004. But Otto said that would have no influence on the review of Kinder's office.

The Missouri Democratic Party said Schweich's office should have hired an independent, third party to conduct the review.

"The conflicts of interest between Peter Kinder and Tom Schweich's office run far too deep for any review from Schweich or his staff to pass the smell test," said state Democratic Party spokeswoman Caitlin Legacki.

Otto compared the review of Kinder's travel reimbursements to a review conducted by Democratic Auditor Susan Montee after the gubernatorial campaign for then-Attorney General Jay Nixon paid the state $47,000 in 2007 for using a state vehicle and employees for political purposes. Nixon's campaign paid the state an additional $8,618 after the auditor's review determined the original amount was insufficient.

Montee conducted the review upon Nixon's request. But Kinder did not request an auditor's review of his payment.


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