JEFFERSON CITY • Attorney General Josh Hawley said in a letter Friday that Gov. Eric Greitens’ office is not authorized to hire private legal counsel without his permission.
The letter to Auditor Nicole Galloway, obtained by the Post-Dispatch, came two days after Galloway announced she was seeking more information from Greitens’ office in regard to two taxpayer-paid impeachment attorneys representing Greitens’ office, Ross Garber and Ed Greim.
“My Office was never consulted regarding the retention of those attorneys,” Hawley, a Republican, wrote in a letter to Galloway, a Democrat. “The Office of the Governor lacks authority to retain private counsel to participate in connection with any adversarial proceeding without the Attorney General’s consent.”
Taxpayers are paying the two lawyers a combined $660 per hour for their services. The two have said that they represent the office of the governor, not Greitens himself.
In response to Hawley’s letter, Galloway said in a statement that she has forwarded her own concerns and Hawley’s letter to the Office of Administration and the state treasurer’s office, which pay the state’s bills.
“I will continue to pursue every avenue to provide a full accounting of how tax dollars are being used to pay these private attorneys,” she said.
Hawley said that common law designates the attorney general’s office as the legal representative for state entities in the courts. State entities either must seek permission from the attorney general’s office to hire outside counsel or gain authorization from the Legislature, Hawley wrote.
Hawley wrote that Missouri statutes state that the attorney general’s office “will control litigation on behalf of state entities and officers.” He further cites a 1980 court case, Igoe v. Bradford, which states that “it is for the attorney general to decide where and how to litigate issues involving public rights and duties and to prevent injury to the public welfare.”
Parker Briden, the governor’s spokesman, responded in a statement that past administrations had hired outside counsel.
He later released a longer statement asserting that the administration “does not need the permission of the Attorney General’s office before it may hire outside counsel.” He cited a statute that says the governor may “employ and fix the compensation of such legal and clerical assistants as may be necessary.”
“Just days after the House hired two outside lawyers to represent the committee, the governor’s adversaries would no doubt like to deprive the Governor’s office of counsel,” Briden said in an email.
In response, Mary Compton, spokeswoman for Hawley’s office, said the statute “authorizes the Governor’s Office to retain ‘legal and clerical assistants,’ not to hire private litigation counsel to direct adversarial proceedings on behalf of the State.”
Hawley, who is running for U.S. Senate, also notes in his letter that “by all appearances, the private impeachment counsel seem focused on advancing the individual interests of Governor Greitens rather than the institutional interests of Office of the Governor.”
Briden responded: “The Attorney General is well aware that an impeachment implicates the institution of the office of the Governor and not just the individual. An attempt by one branch of government to sit in judgment on another, empowering the Legislature to essentially overthrow another, implicates the core of the executive branch of government.
“The arguments for due process advanced by the Governor’s counsel will affect the dignity of the office for generations to come, regardless of the individual who holds the office,” Briden said.
Hawley told Galloway to take his assertion that Greitens can’t hire outside counsel without his permission into account as she reviews Greitens’ hires.
The letter came after Hawley forwarded evidence to St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, a Democrat, which led to felony data tampering charges against Greitens.
The attorney general also forwarded evidence that Greitens lied on campaign forms to Cole County prosecutor Mark Richardson, a Republican, though Richardson announced Friday he was not charging Greitens.
Hawley in February launched an investigation into Greitens’ ties to his former charity, The Mission Continues. That investigation is ongoing.