An offer by St. Francois County Prosecuting Attorney Jerrod Mahurin to use up to $50,000 of his office’s annual bad check budget to pay for an audit of his office by the Missouri State Auditor’s Office has been authorized by the county commission.
And while the commissioners didn’t take action on Mahurin’s second request to have the county auditor’s office perform a new audit of his office and release the results prior to the Nov. 6 election, they did agree to post the results of the annual county audit from the past six years on the new county website. Mahurin has held the office of St. Francois County prosecuting attorney for six years.
Appearing before the county commissioners at its Tuesday meeting, Mahurin, a Democrat, began by expressing dismay that his re-election campaign against his Republican opponent, Attorney Melissa Gilliam, had resulted in the county having to pay for a forensic audit of his department that he asserted was needlessly costing county residents as much as $50,000.
“First thing, I’d like to apologize to the commission, to the auditor’s office, to every county employee that has had to basically deal with my election,” Mahurin said. “The reasoning behind that is that I’ve had a lot of mud thrown at me, a lot of smear tactics being done through the guise of repeated requests for information or through requests for financial documents.
“So, with what the auditor’s office has had to do — the countless hours that they’ve lost, the taxpayers have lost due to these things — I would like to apologize for that because an election is not about that. It’s about people running for an office because they really want to do it.
“So, let me be completely clear. I’m not apologizing for any actions that I’m accused of, nor am I apologizing for anything that’s been insinuated about me. What I’m apologizing for is what you all have had to deal with and what the taxpayers have had to deal with.”
In response to an Aug. 6 letter received from Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway regarding a complaint her office had received from a Whistleblower Hotline alleging fiscal mismanagement within the St. Francois County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the county commission agreed to Galloway’s request and passed an ordinance asking for her office to perform an independent audit of Mahurin’s office. The commission was later informed by Galloway’s office that the county would be responsible for covering all of the expenses related to the audit.
“I think the commission knows, and the auditor’s office knows, that every year I’m audited just like every county office is,” Mahurin said. “Every person who’s elected across the state of Missouri — they’re audited, they go through the process. The problem we have is that by this being requested on (August) Primary day, whoever these people were certainly had inside knowledge to how the system would work.
“When the auditor comes in and audits me, no results can be released. Because they requested it on Primary day, we can’t complete the audit in time to show that I would be exonerated. Within 45 days of the election, the auditor can’t release the results. That’s unfortunate because whoever did this certainly put me in a position — and put the taxpayers and the commission in a position — that they have had to answer to things that have already been done throughout the years.”
Mahurin then passed out copies of two county ordinances to the commission. The first details how money collected by the county for bad checks is handled. The second ordinance states that the prosecuting attorney is given the authority to distribute these restitution funds for a number of items such as office supplies, training equipment, capital outlay, hiring of additional staff and expenses for trial and witness preparation, as well as “other lawful expenses incurred by the prosecuting or circuit attorney in the operation of that office.”
Mahurin said, “So, it’s under a statutory authority that the auditor is conducting this audit. The problem is that it is costing the county and it’s costing the taxpayers $50,000 to conduct this audit when basically it’s a smear campaign that’s being funded by the taxpayers. I would like for the commission to accept $50,000 out of this administrative handling cost fund from my office to pay for this audit.
“I think it’s fair for my office, I think it’s fair for the commission and it’s certainly fair for the taxpayers. They should not have to fund political attacks. They have the right to know what’s going on. They have a right to have their interests represented and that’s exactly what I’m asking for here. Again, if someone wants to attack me politically, let them spend their own money, but they’re using the guise of an audit and these accusations of looking at financial documents to make these requests.”
Mahurin’s offer of $50,000 was accepted by the commission in a unanimous vote. The prosecuting attorney’s request to have a county audit performed on his office with results to be released prior to the election was not entertained after County Auditor Louie Seiberlich told Presiding Commissioner Harold Gallaher his office wasn’t qualified to perform a forensic audit like the state auditor’s office is conducting.
A forensic audit is the process of reviewing a person’s, company’s or government entity’s financial statements to determine if they are accurate and lawful.
Alternately, Seiberlich said his office could have the previous audits, performed by outside auditing firms, on the county’s webpage relatively quickly. The county website can be found at http://sfcgov.org
Seiberlich also noted that the audits have always been available for public view. In fact, a stack of the county’s audits sit on a coffee table in the waiting area of his office.
“I’m not apologizing for any actions that I’m accused of, nor am I apologizing for anything that’s been insinuated about me.” — Jerrod Mahurin, SFC prosecuting attorney
Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or email@example.com