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Missouri auditor examining St. Louis’ sports authority, $519M NFL settlement

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(The Center Square) – With the loss of the Rams leaving St. Louis hotel rooms empty, there’s new hope for a flood of visitors to the city – state auditors.

Last month, Missouri Republican Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick requested help finding former City Prosecutor Kim Gardner in order to complete an audit of her office. Last week, House Speaker Dean Plocher, R-St. Louis and candidate for the GOP nomination for Secretary of State, requested Fitzpatrick conduct a comprehensive audit of the city’s published crime statistics.

On Tuesday, Fitzpatrick announced another audit in the city is underway.

Almost a decade after St. Louis spent millions in a failed attempt to keep its National Football League team and two years after getting a $790 million settlement from the league, Fitzpatrick announced an audit of the actions.

The St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Authority will be audited for spending $16 million in a failed attempt to build a new stadium to keep the NFL’s Rams from moving to Los Angeles. Fitzpatrick also said he will audit the settlement of approximately $519 million.

In 2021, the NFL avoided a breach of contract trial and agreed to pay $790 million to St. Louis. However, the law firms Dowd Bennett LLP and Blitz Bardgett & Deutsch received approximately $276.5 million or 35% of the settlement, plus reimbursement of additional costs. Former Democratic Governor Jay Nixon is now a partner at Dowd Bennett.

The remaining amount was divided between the city, St. Louis County and the Regional Sports Authority. The leading organization representing businesses in the region criticized the lack of transparency throughout the process. It also stated there were no clear and specific goals, sound fiduciary governance, accountability and oversight.

“The Sports Authority is a public entity using public dollars and it deserves to be held to the highest possible standard as we make sure the millions of dollars the RSA spent were used responsibly and in accordance with state law,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement.

Fitzpatrick highlighted his past efforts as House Budget Chairman to scrutinize the spending of $16.2 million to hire an architecture firm, attorneys and consultants in an attempt to keep the Rams. The release said he asked the former auditor, Democrat Nicole Galloway, to perform an audit but she declined. He then added money to the state budget to pay for an independent audit, but it was removed by previous governors.

A media release also stated the audit will review the distribution and use of the settlement funds, including why the money sat in non- and low-interest accounts for almost a year.

Plocher’s audit request asks for a report on transparency and accuracy of data to make sure it reflects the current state of crime in the city.

“The residents of St. Louis deserve to know the truth about the crime in their city,” Plocher said in a statement. “We know they’re downplaying the true numbers, and it is costing Missourians dearly. By auditing the crime statistics, we can take appropriate action to address the leadership failures of (Democratic) Mayor (Tishaura) Jones and make St. Louis a great place to live, work, and visit once again.”

Jones was ill on Tuesday and her office announced she cancelled appearances at all events.

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