State audit raises concerns over vendor contracts, vacation time under former public safety director

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COLUMBIA - State Auditor Nicole Galloway released a report Wednesday raising concerns with equipment contracts, travel practices, and use of vacation time in the state Public Safety Department (DPS).

A KOMU Target 8 investigation first covered the report in May. The current director, Sandra Kartsen, became concerned with the department's spending habits after a November 2018 internal investigation.

In part, the audit found DPS provided false information to the Office of Administration regarding the nature and funding of fingerprint technology services.

In June 2018, DPS awarded a $58,000 contract to the Missouri Police Chiefs Charitable Foundation for the installation of fingerprint technology at local law enforcement agencies.

It's a service the auditor's office says the Missouri State Highway Patrol previously provided at no cost to the state.

DPS paid approximately $1.25 million to the foundation, but the equipment was not delivered to local law enforcement agencies until five to six months later, the report says.

The audit said the early payment may have been designed to prevent the appropriation from going unspent during the 2018 fiscal year, but it violated other existing contracts and was done without an established written agreement with the foundation.

Galloway's office also found neither the director or deputy director maintained vehicle usage logs, as required by DPS policy.

The director's vehicle usage averaged 2,956 miles a month- approximately 44 percent higher than DPS directors prior to and after his administration.

The audit was conducted at the request of and paid for by Governor Mike Parson's office after an internal review raised concerns.

It covered January 2017 through August 2018 when Charles "Drew" Juden served as the director.

The report also found Juden may have been overpaid for unused annual leave.

Instead of using vacation time, Juden certified on his timesheet that he worked full 8 hour days for the department the week of February 8, 2018.

A DPS employee told investigators Juden was attending the Daytona 500 NASCAR race.

When he left the department, Juden was compensated $6,864 for his remaining 115 hours of annual leave.

The report said the former Director told investigators he maintained a daily journal that contained information on his work schedule, but did not provide it.

That review “raised concerns that warranted a more in-depth examination of past public safety administration practices,” Karsten said in November.

Concerns raised over excessive lodging expenses during that investigation were not addressed in the audit.

In a letter to the auditor's office, DPS Karsten agreed with all of the audit's recommendations, including better oversight of timesheets and documentation of receipts and expenses.

In a statement to KOMU 8, DPS Communications Director Mike O'Connell said "Part of Governor Parson’s charge to state government was to work to make government better. The department sees the audit as a step in that process."

KOMU reached out to former Director Juden for comment on the auditor's findings, but has not received a response.