Auditor Galloway last week outlined the successes of her Public Corruption and Fraud Division, which has contributed significantly to her office's fight against public corruption. Auditor Galloway launched the division and announced efforts to direct increased resources towards investigations of fraud and abuse at the start of 2019.
"I am proud of the work of my team and all we have accomplished over the past two years to expose wrongdoing. This division has an impressive record of exposing fraud and working with law enforcement to hold those responsible accountable," Auditor Galloway said. "Each time we uncover fraud and abuse, it puts others on notice that public corruption will not be tolerated."
The members of the Public Corruption and Fraud Division have a demonstrated history of working with local, state and federal law enforcement to pursue justice for taxpayers. Since 2015, audits have resulted in 77 criminal charges against public officials. That count has doubled since Auditor Galloway launched her team, which is made up of a dedicated group of attorneys, auditors and investigators.
Most recently, an audit of the City of Center, located in northeast Missouri, found the city clerk misappropriated more than $300,000 in taxpayer funds and used them to pay personal credit cards and other personal expenses. The clerk was indicted in federal court in November and now faces criminal charges of wire fraud and theft. Also, in November, criminal charges were filed against three former Parma city officials in southeast Missouri. An audit found more than $115,000 was taken fraudulently from the city.
The division has also worked with law enforcement agencies to build on past successes and support ongoing investigations. In 2017, an audit of Putnam County Memorial Hospital found $90 million in illegal billings were passed through the 15-bed hospital in northern Missouri. The Public Corruption and Fraud Division worked with federal law enforcement agencies in Missouri, Florida and Washington, D.C. to share information and support a national investigation involving rural hospitals throughout the country. In 2019, the former CEO of the Putnam County Memorial Hospital pleaded guilty to federal health care fraud charges. In 2020, the head of a hospital management company and nine other people were charged in a federal indictment of conspiring to operate a multi-state $1.4 billion billing scheme that used rural hospitals to submit fraudulent claims.
The State Auditor's Office continues to utilize the Whistleblower Hotline, which allows individuals to report suspected fraud and abuse through calls, emails and web submissions.
In some cases, whistleblower contacts result in audits which have led to the filing of criminal charges and the convictions of public officials. Investigations that don't lead to audits also have brought about changes beneficial to taxpayers after Auditor Galloway's office has worked with public officials to make them aware of problems that can be resolved quickly.
In other cases, credible allegations have been referred to the appropriate enforcement authority, such as a situation this fall when the Missouri Ethics Commission (MEC) issued an order against an official of the Ozark Fire Protection District in southwest Missouri. The order was issued after the State Auditor's Office investigated and found credible a whistleblower complaint that the district made purchases without proper bidding or public notice.
Even as the office transitioned to telework in 2020 for the health and safety of employees, the State Auditor's Office Whistleblower Hotline has remained active. Citizens with concerns about abuse and mismanagement in government can call 800-347-8597 or visit auditor.mo.gov/hotline to submit a complaint. Under the law, whistleblowers have the option to remain anonymous.