The Missouri Highway Patrol is investigating claims that a former bookkeeper embezzled from the McDonald County Sheriff's Department.
Cash receipts totaling $16,375 collected by the sheriff's office between January 2003 and March 2004 were not deposited and are missing, according to a Missouri state auditor's report issued Sept. 30. The embezzling could have been prevented Sheriff Robert Evenson had listened to a recommendation made by state auditors in March 2003, according to the report.
"In March 2003, our office peformed a limited review of the sheriff's management practices and provided recommendations of how accounting controls and procedures could be improved." Those reommendations were almost totally ignored by the sheriff, the report indicated.
In December 2003, a sheriff's department employee told the sheriff a $300 cash bond which was recorded in the jail receipt book had never been deposited. "There was no evidence that an investigation into the missing monies was performed by the sheriff," the audit report said.
The report continued, "These shortages may have been prevented or detected if our recommendations had been implemented or had the sheriff conducted an investigation of the missing bond or notified our office."
The thefts were made possible, the report indicates, by "various internal control weaknesses, including little or no review by someone independent of the sheriff."
The audit showed the following amounts were missing for each month beginning with January 2003, with only three months, July 2003 and January 2004, in which no money was reported missing: $873, $469, $372, $350, $2,805, $2,149, $3,908, $299, $935, $3,900, $286, and $2,952.
An attempt was made by Evenson to cover up the shortage, according to the audit report. "Unrecorded checks totaling $12,148 of accountable fees (which should have been turned over to the county) were actually deposited into the sheriff's bond bank account. These unrecorded checks were apparently substituted for the missing cash bond receipts that were recorded on the deposit slips.
"In addition, in an effort to conceal the shortage, Evenson transferred $1,000 from the civil fee bank account to the bond bank account." The sheriff told the auditors he did that because the bookkeeper had told him she had made a mistake and depositeda bond into the civil account.
"To further conceal the shortage," the report said, "$1,600 of cash from the sheriff's calendar sale proceeds was deposited into the bond account."
The auditors had conducted the March 2003 investigation after receiving citizen complaints about the operation of the sheriff's department.
The sheriff issued the following response to the audit, which was included in the report, "You audit uncovered potential criminal activities, namely theft by an employee in the bookkeeper position in the sheriff's office. During your audit, preliminary examination revealed some problems. These initial findings were investigated further. After the audit was started, the bookkeeper began avoiding the auditor and then began avoiding work and eventually terminated her employment during the audit."
The alleged embezzlement was far from the only problem the audit noted in the sheriff's department.
"The sheriff apparently claimed and was paid for more miles than he actually incurred in the personal vehicle used to conduct official business," the audit said.
The report also cited seized property vanishing, including three ATVs and a dirt bike, which were later determined to be with a former deputy and were still there as of Aug. 3.
Other findings of the audit include:
-The bookkeeper paid herself $207 for civil papers that she did not serve in April and August 2003.
-A February 2003 statement said 5.5 gallons of diesel fuel was purchased for a patrol car by a deputy "however, the sheriff indicates that none of the patrol cars use diesel fuels."
-The same deputy bought fuel at three different times during a ten-hour time span on Feb. 16, 2003. That's a considerable amount of driving and is all the more remarkable because he was off duty on the day for which he claimed the mileage money.
-The chief deputy maintained poor records for the inventory of seized property. A March 4, 2004, listing indicated a rifle was on hand, "however, that rifle could not be located in the seized property room. Subsequently, the chief deputy located a release form for the rifle indicating it was released on May 19, 2003, over nine months earlier.
-County officials received more money than they should have. The McDonald County Salary Commission met on Nov. 16, 2001, according to the audit, and voted not to give any salary increases until the county's financial condition improved. The committee did not meet again in 2003 to increase salaries but county officials went ahead and increased them anyway in violation of state law. Those receiving the allegedly illegal increases were: Presiding Commission, $1,980; Eastern Commissioner $1,980; Western Commissioner 1,980; County Clerk $3,000; Treasurer, $2,200, Collector $3,000, Coroner $2,000, Public Administrator $1,000, Assessor $3,000; and Prosecuting Attorney $4,000; for a total of $27,160.
The auditors recommended that county officials consider repaying the unauthorized salary increases. The county officials responded that they would talk to the prosecuting attorney and get his advice before they do anything.
First round bids in the auction of Liberty Group Publishing, owner of The Neosho Daily News, The Carthage Press, The Big Nickel, and The Neosho Post, as well as nearly 300 other newspapers across the United States have been collected, according to newspaper industry sources.
Management presentations began the week of Sept. 20.
Another bidding round is scheduled for late October.