Monday, October 24, 2016

State audit followup shows improvement in Goodman fire district

(From State Auditor Nicole Galloway)

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway has released a follow-up review of the Goodman Area Fire Protection District in McDonald County. An audit of the district was released December 2015, after being requested by citizens through the petition process. Today's report follows up on those initial findings and focuses on key concerns identified in the initial audit, including conflicts of interest and questionable financial activity. The results show improvement in district operations, although several of the areas reviewed still need additional work.

"I'm pleased to see board members are working toward improvements in operations and accountability," Auditor Galloway said. "The fire fighters of the Goodman Area Fire Protection District volunteer to risk their lives to protect others, and they should be supported by a governing board that operates efficiently, transparently, and in accordance with the law."

The board has implemented a new purchasing policy to prevent conflicts of interest that occur when public dollars are spent on services or equipment purchased from a member of the board or affiliated company. The new policy also prohibits board members from using district debit cards for cash advances or to make personal purchases, although the policy does not address concerns related to personal purchases made using the district's eBay account, a practice that makes it difficult to ensure funds are spent appropriately at all times.

The district also improved processes for keeping records of property and equipment owned by the fire protection district. The previous report found the district had not maintained adequate records of land, buildings, vehicles, and other equipment. It also raised concerns with district property being stored on the board president's personal property. Because the board president also operates a backhoe and excavating company, this made it difficult to track which pieces of equipment were owned by the board president and which belonged to the district. Although equipment is still stored on the board president's personal property, the board has completed an inventory list of all district equipment and has entered into a storage contract with the board president. The contract includes a list of the district-owned equipment being stored on the board president's property.

The board has hired a secretary to assist with accounting issues, and has made improvements to financial processes, although concerns related to missing information in the district's annual budget documents had not been addressed.

The 2015 report gave the Godman Area Fire Protection District Board an overall performance rating of poor, and led to misdemeanor charges filed against the board president by the McDonald County Prosecuting Attorney. Those charges are still pending.

A complete copy of the follow-up report on the Goodman Area Fire Protection District is online here.

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