Dispute Between State-Created Insurer, State Auditor

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COLUMBIA - A small, but rich state-created company is balking at full transparency, and Missouri's Auditor is not happy.

Missouri Employer's Mutual -- headquartered east of Columbia -- sells unemployment compensation insurance to Missouri businesses.  Taxpayers financed the start-up.  Now the company is flush with cash...and controversy.  Two of its board members were ousted recently while under federal investigation for their other business affairs.  And the CEO -- well-respected Columbian Roger Wilson -- was dismissed without public explanation.

Missouri Employer's Mutual claims that despite taxpayer seed money, it is not bound by public disclosure rules.   

Now Missouri State Auditor Thomas Schweich isn't so sure.  He's ordered the suedo-private company to reveal financial and meeting minutes.  A lot of information has been released.  A lot is still held private by the MEM company officers.

MEM agreed to a compromise and will submit some company records to the state auditor's office review. However, the auditor's office disagreed Tuesday with the company's insistence that it is an "independent public corporation".

Missouri Employer's Mutual, or MEM, agreed to what it calls a "voluntary" review after the auditor's office threatened to file a public records lawsuit. MEM, however, said it is not subject to state public records laws.

At a hearing Monday at the State Capitol, lawmakers questioned MEM Interim President and CEO about the company's legal status.

The state auditor's office said it is satisfied with the "voluntary" release of information, but will stand by its definition of MEM as a "public" company until the courts and legislature can official definite the corporation.