Government & Politics

Missouri AG will take no action over Greitens social media use, closes investigation

Gov. Greitens’ two Facebook pages

VIDEO: Eric Greitens uses his original Facebook page to get his message to hundreds of thousands of followers. But his lightly used, less-followed "official" governor's page is the only one subject to Missouri's Sunshine Law, the attorney general
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VIDEO: Eric Greitens uses his original Facebook page to get his message to hundreds of thousands of followers. But his lightly used, less-followed "official" governor's page is the only one subject to Missouri's Sunshine Law, the attorney general

After more than a year investigating whether former Gov. Eric Greitens improperly used taxpayer-funded staff to create content for his campaign’s social media accounts, the Missouri attorney general’s office said Thursday the inquiry was over and no action would be taken.

The announcement concludes what is believed to be the last investigation into alleged wrongdoing during the tumultuous 17 months of the Greitens administration, although Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway has not yet finished her final close-out audit of the governor’s office that is expected to be completed later this year.

The attorney general’s probe began last April after The Star obtained an email showing one of Greitens’ state employees helping craft a post during work hours for a Facebook page Greitens repeatedly argued was not his official government account.

The Star subsequently obtained additional emails showing that during the nine months after Greitens’ 2017 inauguration, when he had only one set of social media accounts, his staff regularly created and published content on his Facebook page during work hours.

The emails also showed that Greitens’ top political adviser was directing official staff in the governor’s office.

The previous attorney general, Republican Josh Hawley, launched the investigation to determine whether taxpayer resources were illegally misused and whether Greitens and his staff were violating Missouri’s open records laws. The inquiry continued after Gov. Mike Parson took over following Greitens’ resignation last June and after Hawley resigned to become a U.S. Senator in January.

The inquiry also continued while Hawley was facing similar allegations over his use of private political consultants to help run his official office.

Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican who replaced Hawley, announced Thursday that the Greitens investigation was over and no further action is warranted.

Instead, Parson’s office has signed a pair of agreements essentially promising to follow best practices in its use of social media and email.

“Our agreement today is that the office of the Governor, no matter who is in office, will follow these best practices and serve as a model policy in Missouri and across the country,” Assistant Attorney General and Chief of Staff Christopher Wray said in a statement.

Schmitt’s office said Parson already follows these practices.

The attorney general’s office is also currently considering a request by Galloway to determine whether Parson is violating the state’s open records laws by citing the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to withhold records from public disclosure.

The attorney general’s office under Hawley has been criticized for letting Greitens off the hook with a tepid investigation of the former governor’s use of the self-destructing text message app Confide. And when he resigned from office to become a Senator, Hawley’s staff formally concluded two other pending investigations into allegations involving Greitens.

A lawsuit over Greitens’ use of Confide is still ongoing in Cole County Court.

One of the lawyers who filed that lawsuit, Mark Pedroli, panned the attorney general’s office’s investigation.

“The attorney general’s office spends taxpayer dollars for over a year investigating clearly wrongful behavior, and, once again, it all fizzles out in a non-enforcement agreement,” said Pedroli, who is also involved in a separate open records lawsuit against the attorney general’s office. “This is another example of government agencies not holding one another responsible. Golf course justice for politicians and prosecution for everyone else.”

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Jason Hancock is The Star’s lead political reporter, providing coverage of government and politics on both sides of the state line. A two-time National Headliner Award winner, he’s been repeatedly named one of the “best state political reporters” in America by the Washington Post.


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