Former Higbee Mayor Refuses Comment About Audit Charges

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HIGBEE - Former mayor Charla Bankhead refused to speak with KOMU 8 News Monday, exactly a month after an audit of Higbee revealed unauthorized personal spending, records mismanagement and missing documents under her administration.

According to the audit by Casey-Beard-Boehmer PC, Bankhead's administration spent $6,289 in credit card expenses for an exercise machine, a gas trimmer, a video camera and several other "questionable" items. The audit also claims "the city did not have proper financial statements that could be used for audit purposes" due to poor bookkeeping by former city clerks.

"The only thing that we can figure is maybe they shredded them," Alderman Jim Boggs said. "That's the only thing we can figure."

Current mayor Bob Ashworth said the board of aldermen fired former clerk Delores Johnson in July 2011 for mismanaging records, including residents' water utilities. The audit claims Johnson did not bill residents properly "for several months." Under Johnson, the city clerk's office also "did not properly file the monthly and quarterly Internal Revenue Service withholding forms on a timely basis," which caused the city to pay late fees and other penalties.

Johnson's listed phone number appeared Monday to be disconnected, and nobody at her home in Higbee answered the door when KOMU 8 News visited twice.

Ashworth said city officials will discuss reforms to the bookkeeping process at a meeting next month. Until then, Ashworth said the current clerk has re-organized city hall and has set up a new bookkeeping system.