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The recent release of the State Audit of Knox County by Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich’s office and the state’s findings have cast a dark shadow over the Knox County Courthouse where county officials are feeling the brunt of public disapproval.
Within the audit Knox County was given the worst rating possible by the State Auditor, which is a rating of “poor.” According to a representative of Schweich’s office Knox is one of only three counties to receive a “poor” rating during their 2012 round of county audits in Missouri.
Since the audit was made public last month the Knox County Presiding Commissioner, Evan Glasgow, took time to sit down and speak candidly about some of the audit findings. We went through the painstaking process of going through the audit document, page by page, and he explained what happened and what the county is doing to fix many of the problems. Glasgow was also very forthcoming about the fact that he thought the “poor” rating was unfair and that he doesn’t agree with it.
“Any questions you have I’ll answer the best I can. It’s very aggravating. To the people that work here and know the ins and outs of county government it all makes sense, but to the general public it looks really bad. The auditors did a fine job of making us look bad,” said Glasgow.
The first issue we discussed was the transfer of funds from the Special Road and Bridge (SRB) Fund to support fuel costs for the Knox County Sheriff’s Office in the beginning of 2011, which was highlighted in the first section of the audit titled, “Financial Condition.” According to the audit those funds are to be used only on county roads and bridges and using money from the SRB Fund for the KCSO was a violation of state law.
“I told them about it first thing. I knew they were going to see it. I knew we did it and I knew it was wrong when we did it. The reason we did it was because we had to. There was no other option. In 2011 at the very beginning of the budget year the General Revenue (Fund) starting balance was $7,728.00, which was very, very low. A big part of the Law Enforcement Budget comes out of the General Revenue (Fund) and we just didn’t have the money. We couldn’t cut a deputy because (Sheriff) Mike (Kite) was having heart surgery. We begged and borrowed all we could to get the budget to where it would actually balance to start with anyway. That was just all we could do. There wasn’t any way we could cut anymore out of the Sheriff’s budget. It sucks. We shouldn’t have done it and we didn’t do it (in 2012). We got things to where they were in decent shape again and fixed the situation, but it was just one of those things we had to do. I knew I was going to get slapped on the hand when we did it, but it came down to that or cutting jobs and cutting jobs wasn’t an option given the situation.”
The “situation” Glasgow was referring to is the extended absence of Sheriff Kite who was hospitalized and then under strict orders to remain off the job for over a month at the beginning of 2011 after undergoing major heart surgery. According to Glasgow eliminating a deputy position at that time would have left only one deputy to cover the entire county 24-hours a day and wasn’t feasible.
Another state law violation highlighted in the Sales Tax section of the audit pointed out that a second half cent sales tax was sought by the county when one was already on the books.
“They weren’t allowed by statute to pass another sales tax by law enforcement. The statutory maximum is a half cent and they tried to pass another half cent. That was something the prior administration did and it won’t happen again while I’m here,” said Glasgow.
Another finding, under the “Property Tax Levy Reductions” section of the audit, reported the county lost between $46,000 and $79,000 in tax revenue because of an incorrect classification which was incorrectly assessed beginning in 2010.
“That was one of those things we didn’t know. The auditors pointed that out and it is a good thing they caught it. That way we knew what was wrong so we could fix it. That was in 2010 they did that. As far as adjusting that to try to offset the revenue that was lost due to that error we’re checking on that and I don’t know if there’s anything we can actually do on that or not,” said Glasgow.
Under the “County Procedures” section the audit highlighted that the county keeps bulk fuel tanks for use by the road and bridge crew and KCSO and that fuel and vehicle use was not adequately tracked by the Clerk’s office, which left the county open to loss, misuse and theft.
“We’re kicking around the idea of using a fuel card and doing away with our bulk fuel tanks at the county barn and just using a fuel card from Card-troll and just having them fill up there. I think we’d get it five or ten cents cheaper because we won’t have a delivery fee. We’ll still have bulk fuel tanks at our grader operators’ homes. They take their grader home with them and I think we’re going to track that way. What we talked about doing there is getting a mailbox or something and keeping a clipboard in there for them. That way when the fuel guys come they can write down the meter reading and how many gallons go in. That way we can reconcile everything. We’re working on a system to get that implemented one way or another. The fuel card idea just came up. It would be with one station and right now we rotate between Sinclair, Coop and MFA to deliver fuel. We hoped to have it all implemented by the beginning of the year. It’s something we’re gong to have to work on. If nothing else we’re at least going to do the clipboard thing and have that going at the first of the year too. I don’t think we’ve had any trouble with loosing fuel, in fact I’m sure we don’t, but in order to keep everything on the square and to make the auditors happy it’s a good system. We ought to be doing it. It’s just like balancing your checkbook,” said Glasgow.
Also in the “County Procedures” section of the audit, and instance between October and December of 2011where a KCSO deputy received 34.5 hours of comp time when they were only due six hours of comp time.
“We did make a change to that within our policy. I didn’t catch it at the time we were signing checks. It wasn’t a huge deal. They ended up with too much comp time. We fixed it. As far as the comp time went I didn’t take it away. I wasn’t going to take away time they were depending on because that was time they thought they had earned and I wasn’t going to punish them for a mistake that we made. Once we figured out that it was done wrong we corrected it and it’s been done right ever since,” said Glasgow.
Also in the “County Procedures” section it was pointed out the former Knox County Clerk’s unemployment claim was not protested in a timely manner, which cost the county $4,160.
“It was lost in a pile of mail. It was a mistake. Another one that was human error. It turned out be a costly mistake,” said Glasgow.
In response to the former Clerk’s claim, and a few other recent unemployment claims, the county has since bought unemployment protection to help ensure a protested claim in the future would be recognized.
Under the “Road and Bridge Materials and Receipting Procedures” section of the audit it was highlighted that the county was not requiring those who purchased rock to gravel roads to pay before the rock was delivered and did not have a complete record of all rock sales saying there was little assurances all monies due to the county had been received.
“As far as the rock orders go they have taken orders over the phone, not waiting for payment which would be why receipts were not required at the time of delivery. The Commissioners can’t be here all the time, so they can’t be the only ones to take rock orders. People come in midweek. It’s not necessarily good for them to come in Monday and Friday,” said Glasgow. “Because of this (audit finding) we are only going to be taking rock orders Monday and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to noon. No one else is going to be taking any rock orders. (Western District Commissioner) Roger (Parton) will be taking them for the west side and (Eastern District Commissioner Terry) Red (Callahan) will be taking them from the east side and we’ll just keep it that way. It’s going to be a pain for everybody but that’s the way it’s going to be. They can still call in but they’ll have to mail the check and we’ll have to issue a receipt. We won’t deliver any rock until it’s paid for. It would behoove them to just come in and order and pay for it when they order it. That would save everybody a lot of time a confusion,” said Glasgow.
The final finding we discussed was under the “Computer Controls” section of the audit, which highlighted a lack of security on county computer systems recommending having passwords that are changed periodically and setting up the system to shut down after too many failed log in attempts are made on a county computer.
“Their big issue is that they didn’t want people logging on and changing things like property tax and assessments and stuff like that. They want us to change the password periodically and if you try to log on more than three times they want the computer system to shut down. The Commission has recommended that to everyone, but it’s kind of hard for this office to enforce that because we’re the only office without a computer. So we are working with the other county officials to implement the auditor’s recommendations,” said Glasgow.
After going through the audit and addressing some of the findings Glasgow did not attempt to mask his disappointment in the audit report and pointed out that many of the findings had been corrected immediately while the auditors were still here.
“I do not agree with the county’s rating. I don’t agree at all with it,” said Galsgow. “The audit was a crushing blow. We’re going to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get to work fixing these problems. We’ll show the community of Knox County we can do better.”