Rough Waters

9 years 4 months 2 weeks ago May 15, 2007 May 15, 2007 Tuesday, May 15 2007 Tuesday, May 15, 2007 9:36:20 PM CDT in News

"It's a controls issue and one thing we talk about throughout the audit including the municipal court needs to have some oversight or at least separation of duties," Missouri State Auditor Susan Montee said.

A citizen petitioned state audit is like a security camera watching over the municipal government of Lake Ozark.

"We're learning a lesson right now on how to take care of the problems so they don't come up again," mayor candidate Johnnie Franzeskos said.

The first sentence of the audit sums up what Montee says is repeated for another 68 pages.

"They just need to do a better job of oversight. One thing that we talk about in the report is that they had inadequate financial records, inadequate reporting of those records and inadequate planning," Montee said.

A big concern is the fact this report is almost a carbon copy of one from seven years ago.

"And there is nobody to oversee or make the city council accountable for what they're doing," Lake Ozark resident Susan Drummond said.

In the current report, the city still can't account for where money is being spent when employees use credit cards, and that's the case for nearly 15 percent of purchases. In 2000 auditors found that reports did not contain sufficient information. In the 2007 report the city still isn't tracking fuel purchases, leaving a $60,000 wake of undocumented fuel use.

And in 2000, auditors told the city that giving out bonuses is illegal, but the practice still continued. At Lake Ozark City Hall, new City Administrator Charles Clark says he's already stopped bonuses for different city employees.

"Both were inappropriate frankly. I didn't know about the bonuses even though I was here at the time because it was deemed I hadn't been here long enough," Clark said.

The problems are complex but one part is simple: some employees aren't following procedure.

"The procedures that were put in place were not being followed by a couple of critical individuals and now one is gone and the other one has been re-schooled," Clark said.

Now everyone in Lake Ozark KOMU spoke with agreed the city could improve, now they just hope this audit can help them target and measure their progress.

A tight race for mayor is still in court, but the former mayor Paul Sale wants the city to make several of the changes. But doesn't agree with everything the audit says.

"We have procedural problems, we've never denied that, I said that a year ago, there are some problems there. But there is no money missing though," Sale said.

There's agreement between the state auditor and local officials that high turnover makes it tough to implement changes.

"You're making headway, then you have a new team, new player come in, or two players or three players. Or four or whatever," Sale said.

"You have a new person coming in trying to learn something who hasn't had the benefit of having us in there trying to tell them how to set it up. If the procedures weren't there in the first place that person has nothing to follow," Montee said.

And follow-up is what mayor candidate Johnnie Franzeskos is promising.

"On our papers that we get every month I want them to show what we have done to correct some of the corrections every month so that two months from now, two years from now somebody can't come in here and say look we're just like we were before," Franzeskos said.

To add to the problem it has not been decided if Franzeskos or former mayor Paul Sale will take over the reigns. In one week, voters will re-vote on the mayoral contest. Sale lost by only one vote on the initial count and started the move for a new election.

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