State auditor details investigation into theft by county clerk
JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri State Auditor's Office released details of the investigation which led to the former Cooper County clerk being charged with theft.
Darryl Kempf pleaded guilty in early October to using county money to lease a pickup truck; he also used county money to pay off the lease, and transferred the truck to himself as a gift. At around the same time as the plea, Kempf resigned from his position.
According to the auditor's office, Kempf leased the truck despite the county having a vehicle available for his use. A previous audit of Cooper County had also called into question the cost effectiveness of leasing vehicles.
In 2016, Kempf terminated the least after only two years, using personal and county money to buy the truck. By gifting it to himself, Kempf avoided having to pay $2,335 in state and local taxes. Court documents said Kempf had employees in his office help with the paperwork involved in transferring ownership of the truck to himself, and those employees didn't fully understand what the paperwork was for.
The audit found that after being questioned by the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Kempf tried to use county money to make more payments to the leasing company, even though the truck was already bought. Kempf indicated he was trying to transfer the truck back to county ownership and get a refund of the money he'd paid to buy it.
The audit further questioned the use of Cooper County's election fund to buy and maintain vehicles that mostly benefited the clerk. That fund, according to the auditor's office, should be used for training programs, as well as supplies and equipment to improve the conduct of elections. The audit said since the fund was created 18 years ago, only about 4% of spending can be connected to such activities.
"There must be no tolerance for public officials who use their office for personal gain," Auditor Nicole Galloway said in a news release Thursday. "While the details of this report are disappointing, I am pleased our audit work contributed to a thorough investigation that resulted in the former Cooper County clerk being held accountable for his actions."
You can read the full copy of the audit here.