Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway has announced a bipartisan effort to increase penalties for government officials who steal public dollars. Senate Bill 176 increases the penalties for public officials convicted of misconduct, and grants additional authority to Missouri prosecuting attorneys and law enforcement agencies when inappropriate or illegal activity is suspected at the local level. The bill is supported by the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.
"This legislation represents an important partnership between my office, Sen. Dixon, and local law enforcement authorities across the state who believe those in positions of public trust must be held accountable to the people they serve. My office stands ready to assist Missouri law enforcement in ensuring that government officials at all levels discharge their duties for the benefit of the people they serve, not themselves," Galloway said.
"I’m proud to work with the State Auditor and Missouri’s prosecutors to develop tools to strengthen public accountability.This bill will give local prosecutors and law enforcement the ability to maximize resources with the State Auditor in investigations. It will strengthen our criminal laws in this area consistent with the Criminal Code Revision, and it will provide a method to ensure someone who embezzles taxpayer money can be held accountable by our courts for paying it back," Sen. Dixon said.
"If passed, this legislation will make Missouri law stronger and serve as an important tool for prosecuting attorneys across the state to prosecute crimes that in many cases would otherwise go unpunished due to a lack of resources or remedies available under the current law," Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys President and Christian County Prosecuting Attorney Amy Fite said.
Senate Bill 176 elevates penalties for official misconduct in the first degree from a misdemeanor to a class E felony, which carries a potential sentence of up to four years in prison. It also provides a new category of official misconduct in the second degree, a class A misdemeanor, giving prosecutors greater discretion based upon the severity of the alleged crime. The bill provides additional powers for Missouri courts to issue orders to increase the likelihood that stolen public dollars are recovered for their intended public use, and that officials who abuse their powers are removed from office swiftly. The bill also empowers Missouri prosecutors and law enforcement to request an audit of local government suspected of fraud, misconduct, or abuse of public dollars.
The bill was pre-filed by Sen. Dixon in advance of the upcoming legislative session, which begins on January 4, 2017.