Recent headlines detailing sexual harassment and discrimination at the Missouri Department of Corrections have caught the eye of State Auditor Nicole Galloway — namely because the state uses taxpayer dollars to settle those lawsuits.
Galloway’s office announced Friday it would be reviewing the state’s legal expense fund, which is the pool of money used to make those payments.
“Taxpayers are spending millions of dollars on settlements and judgments — something is wrong here,” Galloway says.
She says legal settlements go beyond just the Department of Corrections. The biggest problem, she says, is that the money used to pay legal expenses is then not available for other state priorities, like education, transportation and infrastructure.
"So we are taking a broad look to examine the finances and policies relating to these payouts, not just within the Department of Corrections, but across state government," Galloway says.
The legal expense fund is used to settle lawsuits across the state. She says this audit can help her determine whether specific agencies or departments are responsible for a disproportionate share of these kinds of lawsuits.
Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter and newscaster at KCUR. Connect with her on Twitter @larodrig.