Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley announced Thursday that he will begin providing lawmakers with monthly reports on how much the state spends to settle lawsuits.
In a letter to legislative leaders, Hawley said his office will provide the General Assembly reports detailing all activity regarding the state legal expense fund. The first report will be available April 30.
Hawley also said he would work to make all the details available to the public, eventually posting settlements and judgments online every month.
“I am firmly of the view that the Missouri citizens deserve transparent and accountable government, especially in the expenditure of their tax dollars,” Hawley said in his letter.
The legal expense fund began to garner attention after a report in The Pitch on widespread accusations of harassment, discrimination and retaliation against the state Department of Corrections in recent years.
House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, a Kansas City Democrat, introduced legislation earlier this year that would require monthly reports on the fund’s expenses to be delivered to the legislature by the attorney general’s office. According to figures released at the time she filed her bill, the state had paid more than $52 million over the last five years to settle lawsuits against state agencies.
The biggest settlement over the last year was $9 million paid to the family of Brandon Ellingson, an Iowa college student who drowned in handcuffs in the Lake of the Ozarks while in the custody of a state trooper. The state also agreed in November to pay a former Department of Labor employee $2 million to settle an age and gender discrimination lawsuit against Gov. Jay Nixon.