Missouri auditor rates Ray County ‘poor’ for missing money, bad management

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(The Center Square) – Ray County officials agreed to implement all recommendations made by Republican Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick after he gave the government a “poor” rating in its annual audit.

The 30-page audit found the county’s processes to handle money were deficient, it didn’t comply with several laws and management practices and procedures need improvement. Ray County’s population is 23,107, according to information from the U.S. Census Bureau, with 41 people per square mile.

Thousands of dollars are missing from the sheriff’s office and an investigation isn’t possible due to a lack of evidence. The report found approximately $3,000 in conceal carry weapons permit fees and sex offender registry fees collected between January 2018 and December 2020 are missing.

“The current sheriff, Scott Childers, took office in January 2021, and more than half of his predecessor’s employees resigned or were not retained, including the former employees primarily responsible for receipting, recording, and transmitting CCW and SOR fees in question during the period reviewed,” the audit stated.

In a response to the audit, the county said a lack of evidence ended the investigation of the missing money.

“We contacted several local law enforcement agencies early in my administration regarding an investigation of the missing money; however, due to lack of information and missing records, we were unable to get any assistance and complete the investigation,” the county said in response to the findings.

The county’s prosecuting attorney failed to distribute $7,100 in restitution payments to victims during a three-month period in 2020.

“The Prosecuting Attorney indicated proper disbursement procedures were not maintained due to frequent turnover in the office and the limited number of staff trained to perform these duties,” the audit said. “Timely disbursement of restitution payments is necessary to ensure victims are compensated …”

The audit found an account for bond money was $2,784 higher than receipts issued in 2020. Money was transferred between bank accounts without any supporting documents to explain the transfers.

“The sheriff could not explain why he and his former staff and the prior sheriff did not perform monthly bank reconciliations, maintain a book balance for the civil process account, or maintain accurate book balances for the inmate and inmate security bank accounts,” the audit said.

Officers received overtime when compensatory time should have been given under county policy.

“The Sheriff indicated overtime hours were paid rather than awarding compensatory time when a deputy was called in on his or her day off to handle an emergency or asked to work to cover another deputy’s shift,” the audit said. “In other instances, deputies earn compensatory time. The county’s personnel policy states the county has exercised its option to use compensatory time in lieu of overtime pay. The sheriff indicated he continued the prior sheriff’s procedures related to handling overtime pay and compensatory time.”

The county said it would change its practices.

“Sheriff’s office deputies and jail personnel will receive compensatory time for hours worked in excess of 86 hours bi-weekly, up to a maximum accrual of 168 hours, after which overtime will be paid,” according to the county’s response. “Also, we will continue the practice of paying overtime when a deputy is called in on his or her day off to handle an emergency or is asked to work to cover another deputy’s shift.”

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