Blunt stands behind MoHELA audit
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Blunt stands behind MoHELA audit

Date: January 10, 2007
By: Sarah D. Wire
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - In a surprise development Wednesday, Gov. Matt Blunt endorsed the proposed audit of MoHELA in a letter to State Auditor Susan Montee. Blunt also commended Montee on her efforts to audit the loan company which has never been audited before.

The Republican governor's praise of the Democratic auditor's plans came just one day after the spokesman for the state Republican Party attacked the audit and called it politically motivated.

In his letter to Montee, Blunt asked that she include allegations his office had received that employees of the college loan program were getting "sweetheart pension plans."

Blunt also asked Montee to include the last ten years of MoHELA operation in the audit in order to identify some long standing.

In a statement issued by his office, Blunt stated he did not anticipate that the audit would interfere with his plans for the Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative which includes selling part of the company to finance university construction and student scholarships. Several Senators agreed.

"Her audit really is not focused on the viability of MoHELA and it's assets and the ability to do Lewis and Clark," said Senate President Pro Tem Mike Gibbons R-St. Louis County.

Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, agreed and said he did not foresee Montee's audit as having any impact on the MoHELA initiative.

Both Harris and Gibbons said the audit should not delay legislative action on the governor's proposal to sell some of MoHELA's assets.  Last month, Blunt had suggested he might call a special session on MoHELA to accelerate the plan.  Tuesday, Blunt said he had not yet made a decision on whether to proceed with that idea.

Montee stressed that the audit's purpose is to get correct information into the hands of decision makers as quickly as possible.

In his letter to Montee, Blunt wrote that his office had received reports of duplicate pension plans for MoHELA executives and employees.

"It has been reported to by office that there are duplicate pension plans for MoHELA employees that may not be in compliance with standard practice or acceptable law," Blunt wrote.

Tuesday Paul Sloca, Communications Director for the Missouri Republican party had accused Montee of having political motives for her audit of the student loan company.

"Political opportunist Susan Montee is wasting little time playing politics with the state auditor's office by launching a politically-motivated audit that threatens to stand in the way of providing millions of dollars for Missouri students," Sloca wrote in his statement.  One day later, the Republican governor issued a statement "commending" Montee for announcing her audit.

On Wednesday, Sloca said he stood be his comments.  He said Blunt supported Montee's audit because the information it provides will prove that the MoHELA sale is a smart decision.

Montee said neither she nor her office would include their personal or political feelings in the audit, but want to get the correct information to legislators so they can make a decision.

Harris disregarded Sloca's statements and said they were contradicted by the Governor's statements today.

"I have full confidence in her ability to do a good job as State Auditor and I trust her judgment," Harris said.