Editorial: Former Gov. Eric Greitens should pay his own legal fees

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial: Two attorneys for former Gov. Eric Greitens, hired to represent him in disciplinary action before the Legislature, were benefiting Greitens and not state taxpayers, says the head of Missouri’s Office of Administration, who is refusing to pay those legal bills. 

Greitens was responsible for the scandals that erupted on his watch. He must assume responsibility for the resulting costs.

Attorneys Ross Garber and Ed Greim submitted $153,000 in bills to the state for legal expenses preceding Greitens’ June 1 resignation. He hired Garber, a Washington, D.C., attorney with expertise defending other governors facing impeachment, for $320 an hour. Greim, a Kansas City-based attorney, billed $340 an hour.

Despite objections from the attorneys, Missouri authorities need to stand firm on the decision not to stick taxpayers with this tab. There are potentially more bills that Greitens could try to get paid with state revenue because he still faces a civil lawsuit involving allegations of open records violations. The suit involves Greitens’ and his staff’s use of an app, Confide, that erases text messages after they are read.

Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, who chaired the special Missouri House committee that investigated Greitens, said in a three-page letter to Sarah Steelman, commissioner of the state’s Office of Administration, that the governor broke the law when his office hired the attorneys. Steelman said Thursday that the state would not pay the bills.

Barnes said that Greitens individually entered into the contract with the lawyers, violating a state law that forbids officials from making contract decisions from which they personally benefit.

Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley says Greitens hired the two attorneys unlawfully, and that they were advancing Greitens’ private interests, not those of the governor’s office. A Greitens adviser said part of the reason the governor resigned is because he had millions of dollars in legal bills and would have racked up millions more fighting further legal challenges.

Mark Pedroli, an attorney and plaintiff in the Confide lawsuit, told The Kansas City Star that Gov. Mike Parson must decide if the governor’s office “will continue to stonewall or let the investigation go forth.” No matter what Parson decides, the Bryan Cave law firm already has been paid $6,720 from the state’s legal defense fund to represent the governor’s office in that case.

Republicans talk a lot about personal responsibility, and this is what it’s all about. The financial mess Greitens created is his own to clear up.