Audit Reveals Money Missing Again from Sheriff's Department
By: CJ Cassidy
MISSISSIPPI COUNTY, Mo. - An audit in Mississippi County raises some questions and some eyebrows. It points to money missing from the Detention Center for the second time in a row.
The Sheriff's Office is trying to figure out what happened to the money, but others say they thought any problems in the county would have been cleared up long before this audit.
"It is very upsetting for the taxpayers to realize their money is missing and that it can't be accounted for," said Mississippi County Prosecutor Darren Cann.
The audit sites Detention Center personnel could not account for $2,860 collected from inmates in 2006.
The prosecutor's even more upset because an audit in 2005 pointed to similar discrepancies under the previous sheriff's administration.
"I assumed the accounting procedures would be changed and all the monies would be accounted for. Obviously that's not being done," he said.
At the time, the money missing from the previous sheriff's office amounted to about $41,000. Sheriff's deputies say that's quite a difference from the money missing this time.
In an email statement, Sheriff Keith Moore said, "We are not certain if criminal activity has taken place. However we will work this investigation until we have the needed answers... it could be a case of sloppy and incompetent accounting, as the audit states."
Some folks in town say they think the sheriff won't leave any page unturned until he gets some answers.
"As far as I'm concerned, the sheriff's department is doing a good job. No problems. It doesn't really affect me that much," said James Cartwright of East Prairie.
But others, like bookkeeper Lydia Holton who designs flowers and handles accounts at a florist's shop in Charleston, say they expected more.
"If we can keep it straight during a huge busy time like Valentine's Day or Mother's Day without having missing money, other people could probably do it too," Holton said.
"Our elected officials are not above the law. Everyone should have to follow the law," Cann said.
The sheriff also says all other suggestions the auditor made have already been put in place. They've also hired another bookkeeper.
The former bookkeeper is accused of stealing money from the sheriff's office, but no one can say for sure if that money is connected to the missing money.
The audit also reveals some other issues, those pertaining to the county clerk.
The findings say Hubert Delay Junior was paid more than $10,000 extra in 2006 and 2007, in addition to his salary for other duties he performs like grounds keeping.
Prosecutor Cann says in keeping with state law the payment for that grounds keeping work should have been awarded through a bidding process.
He says that would ensure taxpayers aren't short changed and the job goes to the lowest bidder.
Presiding Commissioner Jim Blumenberg says it might be wrong to go against the law, but that's just the way it is.
"It probably should be brought to a bid, but I'll tell you...not just groundskeeper positions, but even in trying to buy material, we've got to get someone we can depend on. That's the reason we do it. Just the way we do it. I don't think there's going to be any change. There's not going to be a change as far as I'm concerned," Blumenberg said.
He adds that this is the way the county has operated for years, and that it's not a big deal.
The county clerk refused to comment.