Audit: public office mismanaged wards' money, gets "poor" rating
JEFFERSON CITY - A recent audit shows questionable transactions by the Benton County public administrator's office, including taking thousands of dollars from people under its care to pay for personal and family expenses.
"Conflicts of interest, or even the appearance of a conflict of interest, is unacceptable in public office," Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway said in a press release. "Individuals depend on the public administrator to make decisions that are in their best interest, which means safeguards must exist in order to protect the individuals who depend on those services."
According to the release, the public administrator manages the care and finances of people who are unable to do so themselves. The administrator serves as a court-appointed guardian. The State Auditor began an investigation into the office after receiving complaints over the handling of someone's assets.
The audit found the questionable sale of a person's car to an employee of the public administrator's family-owned accounting business, with $7,800 in proceeds going into the incorrect bank account. The audit also found payments made to the public administrator's family-owned accounting business and to the public administrator's cousin. These payments included about $2,700 from five individual accounts for tax preparation services and transportation fees.
Galloway also found the public administrator handled financial duties for some wards without court authority and issued checks without the proper approval. The public administrator did not adequately monitor finances for some people, which led to $370 in bank overdraft fees charged to their accounts.
The report describes concerns with annual settlements and status reports, which were not always filed timely and accurately. In some cases, they were not filed for as many as five years. The same issues were identified with inventory report management.
The office received an overall performance rating of poor, which means a follow up report will be conducted later this year. A complete copy of the audit is available here.