George Soros-backed St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner has come under fire recently for allegedly traveling across the country and world on a criminal justice reform organization's dime without reporting it, in apparent violation of city and state law.
According to an investigation into the matter by local news station KMOV-TV, the progressive attorney embarked on numerous trips in 2018 and 2019 that were "paid for in full, or in part, by an organization called Fair and Just Prosecution, a group that professes to support progressive prosecutors," yet she did not disclose the trips on travel reports.
Billionaire philanthropist George Soros has also contributed to Fair and Just Prosecution, the report said.
Gardner, who has risen to the national spotlight in recent weeks after filing charges against Mark and Patricia McCloskey for brandishing guns while defending their home from Black Lives Matter protesters, was also allegedly unresponsive on trips, causing work to be back-logged.
Sources reportedly told KMOV that Gardner's traveling was "prolific and problematic," and that she was often "unreachable."
News 4 Investigates: St. Louis Circuit Attorney hasn't disclosed trips required by law, documents www.youtube.com
Gardner had previously reported trips to New York, Chicago, Seattle, Philadelphia, and other places paid for by the organization in 2017. But when the news outlet submitted a public information request about any trips during the following two years, nothing turned up, despite pictures of Gardner posted on social media showing her on several trips.
"When something isn't reported, the public has a right to ask well, why wasn't it?" Patrick Ishmael, who works for the St. Louis-based Show-Me Institute, said. "Elected officials have an obligation to be transparent and that's especially true related to their duty because the public wants to know their officials are working for the interest and not someone else's."
KMOV noted that "St. Louis' laws require every elected official report their travel and whether it was paid for with public or private funds" and that "sometimes Missouri law also mandates information about who paid for travel and lodging."
In response to the allegations, Gardner's office said:
The suggestion that there is any quid pro quo involved here is patently absurd. By working with FJP, she has access to a network of prosecutors who are also implementing change in their communities across the country, prosecutors who are working to create a fairer, more equitable justice system and move beyond the failed policies of the past that created our mass incarceration crisis ...
Circuit Attorney Gardner refuses to apologize for seeking reasonably opportunities to further her knowledge and access prosecutors from throughout the nation for best practice. The suggestion that she would be persuaded to follow an alternative that is not focused on addressing the root causes of crime for a few plane tickets and hotel rooms is insulting.
The Circuit Attorney is confident that the public will see through this veiled attempt to disparage her and her efforts to continue to change our criminal justice system to be more just and fair.
In response to KMOV's inquiry, Fair and Justice Prosecution acknowledged that it is standard practice for the organization to pay for a prosecutor's food, lodging, and airfare for their events. They did not confirm the number of trips that Gardner has been on.
Earlier this year, Gardner faced criticism after a grand jury probe was launched into her failed prosecution against former Missouri Republican Gov. Eric Greitens.