|04-29-2006, 12:02 AM|
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Tucson, AZ
Casino cash: $6533
FBI investigates MO Republican Governor Matt Blunt & Cronies
FBI interviewing former fee office agents
DAVID A. LIEB
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Federal investigators have begun interviewing former state contractors about the way vehicle license offices have been managed under Gov. Matt Blunt's administration, The Associated Press has learned.
A former contract agent for one of the license offices said Friday that she has been contacted several times within the past 10 days by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Other former "fee office" contractors also have been interviewed by the FBI, said the former contract agent who requested anonymity because the interviews are ongoing.
The former contractor said she also has been contacted by state and local investigators.
Missouri has 183 privately run offices that collect such things as vehicle sales taxes and drivers' license fees on behalf of the state. They commonly are called "fee offices" because the state contractors get to keep a fee for each transaction.
Fee offices have long been political patronage plums - awarded by governors to loyal supporters - that frequently change hands when the governor's office switches between Democratic or Republican control
But FBI agents have been asking questions about some relatively new arrangements in which the offices have been awarded to contractors, who then have been approached by a third party to manage them.
The former fee office contractor said the FBI asked about the policies and procedures for running fee offices and whether there was anything strange about the transition of the fee office when Blunt, a Republican, succeeded Democratic Gov. Bob Holden in January 2005. The FBI asked questions about the third-party management efforts, including whether Garrett Lott was involved in them.
FBI spokesman Peter Krusing in St. Louis said the agency would neither confirm nor deny that it was conducting an investigation.
Lott oversaw Blunt's campaign finance reporting during his 2004 gubernatorial race and, after Blunt became governor, was awarded the lucrative south St. Louis County fee office.
Lott did not immediately return a telephone call Friday.
The fee office that Lott was awarded previously had belonged to Millie Reiter, who also was the contractor for the High Ridge fee office in Jefferson County.
After Blunt became governor, the High Ridge office was awarded to local attorney Derrick Good, president of the Jefferson County Republicans.
Good said in an interview Friday that he applied for a fee office about the time Blunt became governor. He was included on a list of tentative contract agents released Feb. 9, 2005, by Blunt's Department of Revenue.
After learning he would receive the fee office but before he actually took over, Good said, he was contacted by Jewell Patek, who had done campaign and fundraising work for Blunt and now is a Capitol lobbyist with a growing client list.
Good said Patek asked him whether he would like to hire a management firm to run the office and said a limited liability company called Highridge Services already had been set up to do so.
Patek did not immediately return a telephone call Friday. But he told the AP two weeks ago that he had not been contacted by federal investigators.
Records at the secretary of state's office show Highridge Services was organized Jan. 26, 2005, by Jamison Shipman, an attorney at the Kansas City law firm of Lathrop & Gage, who also created other management companies around the same time. Blunt's campaign also has used Lathrop & Gage for legal services.
Shipman also did not return a telephone call Friday.
Unsure of whether to take up Patek's offer, Good said, he called Blunt's director of boards and appointments, James Harris.
"I was fairly naive and new to all this, so I just wasn't sure if there was something expected of me or not," Good said.
"James made it very clear to me that the governor and he were not behind this organization, and it was up to me how I ran the office, as long as I ran it very well," Good said.
Good said he ultimately decided not to hire the management firm and instead bought the rights to the Highridge Services name. Secretary of state's records show Good took over as the registered agent for Highridge Services on May 18, 2005.
Blunt spokesman Spence Jackson responded to a request for comment on behalf of Harris.
Good's account of his conversation with Harris about management firms "is consistent with everything we've said in the past about the offices," Jackson said Friday. "Our direction to them is to improve service to the public as well as reduce costs to the taxpayers."
|05-02-2006, 10:43 AM||#3|
walking on sunshine
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: In Transition
Casino cash: $2687
He graduated from my high school a year after I did. With that in mind, the rules of high school dictate that I, or someone from my class, should be able to kick his ass.