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Audit results won’t come before election

St. Francois County Commissioners have received a letter in response to a Aug. 14 letter they wrote to the Missouri State Auditor’s Office agreeing for an audit to be performed of the county prosecutor’s office after a complaint was left on the state’s Whistleblower Hotline.

In the original letter dated Aug. 6, State Auditor Nicole Galloway wrote, “The allegations presented to my office include that county funds were spent inappropriately on questionable expenditures by [County Prosecuting Attorney Jerrod Mahurin]. In addition, the whistleblower expressed concerns with alleged bonus payments being made to employees of the prosecutor’s office without the approval of the county commission.”

At the commission’s regular meeting held Aug. 14, Presiding Commissioner Harold Gallaher announced that the county commission had prepared a letter in response to Galloway’s letter. In addition to inviting the state auditor’s office to perform the audit, Gallaher said, “I will comment that we’ve asked for a prompt audit to get it done and we have asked for a focused audit for cost control measures and that they have a very specific stated reason for their audit. So, we’ve asked them to focus within that range.”

In response to the Aug. 14 letter, Director of Operations Brent Bayer wrote that the auditor’s office had contacted the commission by telephone and was sending a summary of the conversation by mail.

In the summary, Bayer wrote: “First, once the state auditor has been invited into a first-class county, it is our duty to develop the scope of the audit based on the concerns of the commission, allegations provided to our Whistleblower Hotline, and any other relevant information provided to our office. While our office will take your suggested scope into consideration, the audit may expand beyond that scope. It may be necessary to look beyond the time frame and specific concern outlined in your letter to satisfy the objectives of our audit and fulfill this office’s duty to taxpayers.

“Second, in your email that included the letter from the commission, you stated, ‘Again, a very prompt audit is requested as efforts are underway to alter the next election by these allegations.’ As we discussed on the phone, we want to be extremely clear that this audit will not be concluded or released before the November 2018 election. The state auditor’s office has a longstanding policy that no audit reports will be released within 30 days of an election if the auditee is a local government officeholder who is subject to an election.

“Given the time frame, our staff would not have sufficient time to conduct a thorough audit and comply with this policy. We are unable to control when our office receives allegations and the potential of a political implication plays no role in the work our audit staff will conduct. In fact, as we discussed, the letter to the commission was sent within weeks of receiving the hotline information, promptly after completing an initial review, and timed to coincide with the commission’s meeting schedule.

“Third, as stated in our email on Monday, Aug. 13, 2018, at 3:19 p.m., the estimated cost of an audit of the St. Francois County Prosecutor’s Office is $25,000-$50,000.”

The letter ended with a word of appreciation to the commission for addressing the allegations in a timely manner.

Responding by email to the summary from Bayer, Presiding Commissioner wrote, “We agree to your normal practice that any ‘leads’ found would prompt a larger investigation both in scope and time frame. We invite and request that you carry out your audit. We hereby grant our permission to do so.

“We also understand your policy to not release findings in a time frame that may alter the results of an election. In any event, we encourage your prompt start of the audit. We want to know, and we want our citizens to know, the truth!

“We regret the estimated cost of $25,000 to $50,000 for the audit. After long negotiations, and with an extended contract, we were able to save $13,000 in our annual auditing costs. Those savings will only pay a small portion of this added cost to our taxpayers. However, we understand that the cost must be paid and will agree to do so.”

Responding to Galloway’s Aug. 6 letter, Prosecuting Attorney Mahurin said he openly welcomed an audit conducted “by anyone.”

“As we discussed on the phone, we want to be extremely clear that this audit will not be concluded or released before the November 2018 election.” State Auditor’s Office

St. Francois County Presiding Commissioner Harold Gallaher motions to a copy of a letter received from the state auditor's office and projected on the wall of the county commission's chambers at its Aug. 21 meeting. In the letter, State Auditor Nicole Galloway wrote that the results of the audit of Prosecuting Attorney Jerrod Mahurin's office won't be available until after the November election.

St. Francois County Presiding Commissioner Harold Gallaher motions to a copy of a letter received from the state auditor’s office and projected on the wall of the county commission’s chambers at its Aug. 21 meeting. In the letter, State Auditor Nicole Galloway wrote that the results of the audit of Prosecuting Attorney Jerrod Mahurin’s office won’t be available until after the November election.

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Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com

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