State audit critical of Gasconade’s former sheriff’s financial practices

JEFFERSON CITY — A state audit of Gasconade County released Monday had an overall rating of only “fair” and questioned the spending practices of its former sheriff using a reserve fund kept separate from the county treasury.

The audit also questioned the “appropriateness of several purchases” made using the account.

“Taxpayers expect purchases by the sheriff’s office to have a clear benefit to public safety in their community, but our audit found this was not always the case,” said Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway in a statement released by her office following the audit of the two-year period from Dec. 31, 2015, to Dec. 31, 2017. “I appreciate the responses of Gasconade County officials, who appear committed to making improvements to ensure proper use of taxpayer dollars.”

Auditors also noted the Ex-Officio Recorder of Deed “does not account for the numerical sequence of all transaction numbers” and the “Public Administrator does not always file annual settlements timely.” Auditors also noted the Public Administrator “lacked adequate documentation for several gift cards purchased for wards during the year ended Dec. 31, 2017.”

Auditors also noted the offices of the County Assessor, County Clerk, County Treasurer, Ex-Officio Recorder of Deeds, Prosecuting Attorney, Public Administrator, and Sheriff “have not established adequate password controls to reduce the risk of unauthorized access to computers and data. Security controls are not in place to lock computers in the offices of the County Assessor and Public Administrator after a specified number of incorrect logon attempts.”

Storage of computer backup files in the Public Administrator’s office was not being done at an  off-site location, the audit noted. 

“Because counties are managed by several separately-elected individuals, an audit finding made with respect to one office does not necessarily apply to the operations in another office,” the audit management report noted. “The overall rating assigned to the county is intended to reflect the performance of the county as a whole. It does not indicate the performance of any one elected official or county office.”

The state audit gives a rating of excellent, good, fair or poor. The county’s was fair.

With a “fair” rating, the auditor notes “results indicate this entity needs to improve operations in several areas. The report contains several findings, or one or more findings that require management’s immediate attention, and/or the entity has indicated several recommendations will not be implemented. In addition, if applicable, several prior recommendations have not been implemented.”

County officials generally agreed with the recommendations made by the auditors to improve the county’s performance in regarding to accounting and computer safety.

The report found the former sheriff maintained the Sheriff’s Office Reserve Fund account outside of the county treasury and did not properly document spending from the fund. Questionable purchases included payments to local restaurants, grocery stores and a pawn shop, as well as charity donations and memberships in local organizations. The former sheriff also indicated money was used to provide bonuses, which would be in violation of the Missouri Constitution.

Additional recommendations to the sheriff’s office included requiring employees to prepare accurate timesheets and ensuring compensation is paid through the county’s normal payroll process. The new sheriff, who took office in 2017, reported he had implemented the recommendations.

The audit targeted payments made specifically to deputies for working the Gasconade County Fair without proper timesheet documentation, citing potential problems with overtime compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act and improper accounting for payroll deduction taxes.

A page document file (pdf) of the complete audit can be found on The Republican’s website at www.GasconadeCountyRepublican.com.