State Auditor Tom Schweich filed a lawsuit against Governor Nixon today saying he was violating the constitution by withholding money from this fiscal year’s budget to pay for disaster relief. The suit comes a few days after he released an audit questioning the action and only a few days after a House committee raised cain with state budget director Linda Luebbeirng about it. Schweich is a Republican. Nixon is a Democrat. The committee is chaired by a Republican. Now comes the lawsuit a week after he told us hoped the situation would not lead to a legal confrontation.

Schweich has refused to make himself available to reporters to discuss the suit. Pending litigation, he says. He is allowing his legal team to discuss the lawsuit but he says the discussion is off the record As the news release inviting us to listen in says,

(The legal team will brief media on the lawsuit only. The auditor’s office requests no quotes or attribution be published for comments made off-the-record.)

One of our top state officials is suing THE top state official and he wants to keep his motives secret. That’s a fine example of public service.

We’ve complained in this column in the past about the increased tendency of our state government to try to manage the news. It appears in this corner that the bar has just been raised.

UPDATE: Governor Nixon’s put out a statement this afternoon. Too bad it didn’t address any issues in the lawsuit.

“Just this week, Missouri’s AAA rating – the highest available – was affirmed once again. A key basis for this rating has been Gov. Nixon’s fiscal discipline in managing Missouri’s budget. To achieve this, the Governor has used his constitutional authority to fulfill his responsibility to reduce spending to balance the budget, a power used by Governors over the years and consistently upheld by the courts.

“The Governor will continue to fulfill his responsibility to balance the state budget, fund essential government services and help our communities recover in the wake of the many natural disasters this year, including the devastating tornado that hit Joplin. Gov. Nixon will continue to ensure that Missouri will meet its obligations to help communities recover and rebuild from these disasters.”

So at the end of the day (as politicians like to say far too often) we have one top state official suing THE top sate official and refusing to discuss it while the target of the lawsuit dodges addressing any of the questions being raised.

What an amazing afternoon.

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