The St. Francois County Commission received a visit from Pamela Allison, CPA, and audit manager for the Office of the State Auditor, when they met for their weekly meeting held Tuesday at the courthouse annex.
Allison, who was wearing sunglasses due to a recent eye injury, spoke to the commissioners about the upcoming audit and introduced the auditor who will oversee the investigation into allegations made on the state’s Whistleblower Hotline that County Prosecuting Attorney Jerrod Mahurin inappropriately used county funds on questionable expenditures. The whistleblower also expressed concerns with alleged bonus payments made to employees of the prosecutor’s office without approval of the county commission.
After informing the commissioners that she has worked in the state auditor’s office for 26 years she said, “I’ve worked for six different state auditors and have extensive experience in auditing local governments, counties, cities, school districts and fire districts. I’m also the lead manager on our public corruption unit that reviews all whistleblower calls. We review all emails that we receive to determine if information is credible.
“Jim Kiser — he’s a certified fraud examiner — and he will be the auditor supervising the audit and he will be the person the county deals with the most. He and I have worked together on several audits and I think that you’re going to find that he is very professional and thorough and will do an extremely good job for you all.”
Allison reminded the commission that it will be the state auditor’s office that will determine the scope of the audit.
“It will kind of depend on the credible information that we’ve received plus any additional hotlines we get,” she said. “Then we’ll also review the county’s internal control procedures and your records. So, as far as a timeline, I can’t really tell you all how long it’s going to take until we kind of get the audit planned.
“As we also discussed with you all, our audit will not be released before the November election. It is our office’s standard procedure to not release a report while an elected official is running for election and 30 days prior. In my 26 year that has been the office’s policy. In addition to that, we don’t get an audit done that quick, to be quite honest with you.”
She said they will start with gathering records.
“I think various officials have already started putting packages together for us. Then we will do our audit work, we’ll plan our audit and then at the end of our audit, we will come back and meet with you all and the prosecutor in a closed session to review the report.”
According to Allison, the reason a closed session meeting is held is to insure the audit is as accurate and factual as possible, as well as providing an opportunity to receive feedback from the commissioners and prosecuting attorney.
“We don’t want there to be a misunderstanding,” she said. “We don’t want to report something that’s not factual. After the closed session our reports go through an extensive review process because we want to be so factual, to be so accurate. Then the state auditor will sign that report and it will be released publicly later on.”
Allison told the commissioners that the estimated cost of performing the audit would be anywhere between $25,000 and $50,000.
“We’re going to try to do the audit as efficiently and effectively as we can,” she said. “Part of that is we need everyone to cooperate with us to get us records just as timely as we can. Should the need exceed that estimate we’ll notify you immediately. I don’t foresee that being a problem.”
Allison stated that so far the county had been “extremely” cooperative and helpful in working with the state auditor’s office.
“We’ll probably just come and visit with the folks that we’re in contact with about the records,” she said. “I promised the prosecutor that I’ll probably come over this afternoon to visit with him and his clerks and his administrative assistant about their office’s procedures. But in the next few days you’ll see us probably more than you want to.”
In response to Allison’s comments, Presiding Commissioner Harold Gallaher said, “As a follow-up request, the commission asks everybody’s assistance and cooperation with them. The more we can help them the quicker it goes and the less our costs are, so we appreciate that.
“Also, we’ve reserved this room and [County Auditor Louie Seiberlich’s] conference room is available to them, so if you see the signs up saying it’s a closed meeting, it’s just because we’re giving them privacy — so, that’s for the next couple of days.”
“It is our office’s standard procedure to not release a report while an elected official is running for election and 30 days prior.” — Audit Manager Pamela Allison, Office of the State Auditor
Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or firstname.lastname@example.org