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Court rejects Missouri treasurer’s appeal against Ashcroft

Scott Fitzpatrick and Jay Ashcroft

Missouri Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick (left) and Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft were sworn in on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021 at the Missouri Capitol. Photos by Robert Cohen/Post-Dispatch.

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JEFFERSON CITY — A state appeals court Thursday sided with Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft in a court case brought by a fellow Republican statewide officeholder.

In a 28-page decision, the Missouri Court of Appeals Western District rejected an appeal of a case brought by Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick alleging that Ashcroft wrote flawed ballot language for a proposed constitutional amendment that would change how the treasurer’s office invests taxpayer dollars.

The proposed referendum, which would go before voters in 2022, was a legislative priority for Fitzpatrick, who says the changes he wants would allow his office to earn higher interest rates on certain investments.

A Cole County judge sided with Ashcroft in a decision released in December and Fitzpatrick asked the appeals court to review the case.

The proposed referendum would allow the treasurer to put money in a wider range of investments, as long as they are qualified under a set of standards designed to ensure the money is safe.

But Fitzpatrick said the ballot language written by Ashcroft’s office is flawed and misleading.

In particular, Fitzpatrick said some of the wording “is intentionally argumentative and likely to create a prejudice against the proposed measure.”

The appeals court, in a decision written by Judge Cynthia Martin, said the section in question is not “intentionally argumentative or likely to create prejudice or confusion for voters.”

Fitzpatrick said he was reviewing the opinion and had not made a final decision on whether to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

Following the Dec. 13 Cole County ruling, Ashcroft said he was pleased with the initial decision issued by Circuit Judge Daniel Green.

“This was ridiculous from the beginning. It was a complete waste of taxpayer funds in an attempt to force a specific voter outcome on the amendment. I am pleased that the court affirmed that our summary of what the amendment would do was fair and sufficient,” Ashcroft said.

Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, is running for state auditor in 2022. He has a primary challenger in Rep. David Gregory, R-Sunset Hills. No Democrats have stepped forward to run for the auditor post being vacated by Democrat Nicole Galloway.

Ashcroft is planning to run for governor in 2024. Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, also a Republican, also has said he’s going to run for the position. Gov. Mike Parson is not seeking reelection.

Originally posted at 10:10 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 13.

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