Report finds Sheriff needs to better address handling of bonds and seized property; audit also recommends Prosecuting Attorney and Public Administrator improve procedures
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Dec. 14, 2018) Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway today released a regularly-scheduled audit of Lewis County, located in northeast Missouri. The report, which gave the county's government an overall rating of "fair," highlighted several recommendations to be addressed by the Sheriff, Prosecuting Attorney, Public Administrator and other county officials.
"While there have been improvements in several areas since the previous audit of Lewis County in 2015, some of the same problems noted previously continue," Auditor Galloway said. "I urge county officials to address the problems highlighted in the audit so the taxpayers of the county are served as effectively and efficiently as possible."
During 2017, the Sheriff office deposited $132,500 for bonds into the office's fee bank account. The audit found insufficient controls and procedures for receipting and recording bond money to ensure all the bonds received were handled properly. A similar condition was noted in the 2015 audit. In addition, the audit found that the Sheriff's office did not maintain a comprehensive list of all seized property and conduct periodic inventories of that property.
The accounting controls and procedures of the Prosecuting Attorney's Office also need improvement, the audit noted. One of the areas of concern was that the Prosecuting Attorney frequently reduced charges filed on traffic tickets by requiring defendants to perform community service or make a contribution to a not-for-profit organization in Lewis County as a condition of reducing the charges. In 2017, charges on more than 400 traffic tickets were reduced after $52,000 was contributed to the not-for-profits, including more than $44,000 given to an organization founded by the Prosecuting Attorney.
The audit points out that Missouri Constitution states the proceeds of all penalties, forfeitures and fines are to be distributed to the County School Fund. The Prosecuting Attorney has informed the Auditor's Office that the practice of requiring contributions to amend tickets has since been stopped.
The audit also reported that the Lewis County Public Administrator had not assessed and collected fees in 2017 from the accounts of some of the approximately 40 wards and estates for which the office was responsible, and that annual settlements were not always being filed in compliance with state law. Other recommendations noted in the report included improving county procedures over fuel, capital assets and budgets; improving controls over county computers to adequately protect data; and developing a written public access policy for county records to comply with the Sunshine Law.
A complete copy of the audit report can be found here.