By BRETT ADKISON
THE CLINTON COUNTY LEADER
A damning report out today from the Missouri State Auditor's office sheds light on the mishandling of operations in the Clinton County Clerk's office, including penalties from the Internal Revenue Service totaling nearly $220,000.
The audit, initiated in 2020 at the request of the Clinton County Commission and other officeholders, gave the county an overall rating of “poor” - the worst grade on the state auditor's scale.
"My audit found numerous deficiencies in several areas of county finances, especially in the operation of the County Clerk's office," said Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway in a press release. "Significant steps are needed to address the problems found in the audit, and we've given recommendations to county officials for each of our findings. I urge those officials to move forward with the recommendations to be better stewards of taxpayer resources and to restore public confidence."
The state auditor's office will conduct a follow-up review in the future to gauge the implementation of the auditor's recommendations.
The majority of the audit focused on the office of Clinton County Clerk David Woody, who first took office in 2019. The deficiencies in Woody's office included:
• Late filings of payroll taxes to the IRS, leading to unnecessary penalties totaling $216,775. Of that, $73,912 has been paid, with a past due amount of $142,863 remaining for 2019, 2020 and 2021.
• From June 2019 to March 2021, the clerk's office made several duplicate and/or erroneous payments to vendors; in one instance, the office paid $71,536 to a vendor who was only owed $5,435.No one was aware of these errors until the vendor contacted the county or refunded the overpayments.
• Clerk's office failed to properly account for a change in pay schedule (from biweekly to semimonthly), resulting in some employees being underpaid and some to be overpaid by sizable margins. According to the audit, a total of 46 employees were overpaid by more than $20,000, for which the county didn't seek reimbursement.
• The clerk failed to properly withhold retirement contributions from employee checks and remit those funds to their respective retirement funds in a timely manner. The clerk also failed to enroll some employees into the LAGERS retirement system in timely fashion.
• The clerk did not maintain accurate accounting records, which the audit stated may have kept other county officials from recognizing the untimely payments and what was owed. The audit notes that the Clinton County Commissioners didn't perform periodic reviews of the records to ensure their accuracy.
• The county clerk failed to pay out child support garnishments to proper state agencies in a timely fashion.
• The clerk failed to ensure the accuracy of 2018 W2 forms filed with Social Security Administration in 2019.
• Neither county clerk nor county commissioners ensured that some bills were paid in a timely manner, leading to more than $1,000 in late cred card payments and $500 for other late payments.
The audit went on to note significant turnover at the position of deputy clerk, whose duties include processing paychecks, verifying work hours, processing deductions from wages and much more. Between January 2019 and January 2021, five different individuals worked as the Clinton County Deputy Clerk.
The audit also cited shortcomings in the Clinton County Commissioner's office, including proper preparation and monitoring of the county's annual budget, keeping minutes of closed session meetings, meeting in closed session for items allowable under state law, and developing an electronic communications policy.
The audit also reported that the county commissioners hired an accounting firm in March 2021 to review the county's payroll records, the cost of which eventually exceeded $7,800 – well above the $6,000 threshold set by the state to require soliciting bids for the service. The audit also questioned the county's use of a local grocery store to get food for its prisoners without a bid.
In response to the auditors, in every instance, Clinton County Clerk David Woody and the Clinton County Commissioners (Presiding Commissioner Patrick Clark, Second District Commissioner Richard Riddell and First District Commissioner Jay Bettis) have pledged to implement procedures to fix the issues, many of which are already in place.
“There was some stuff we weren't aware of,” said Presiding Commissioner Patrick Clark on Thursday. “We have put in procedures and controls that will now let the commission know what is happening, and what has happened, to make sure things are done the way they should be done. We will have verification of that.”
Clark added that past commissioners had relied on word of mouth to verify the operations of other offices, though those operations may not have been carried out.
“Our job is to control the taxpayer's money that they pay to run the county,” Clark said. “We all have to work together as a team, all officeholders, to do that. We've put a lot of stuff in place the last three years, and the county has come out in the black the last three years because of those things we've put in place. We'll continue to look at everything.”
Clerk David Woody said Thursday the audit was very helpful and gave him guidance in the operation of his office. He said he's happy with procedures and controls that have been put in place since the audit.
“They're there to report the facts of what's happened,” he said of the state auditors. “A lot of times, anything that makes headlines, they're going to see the bad. They won't see the good or what's been corrected since then. A lot of that, yes, it's my responsibility. But mainly, my issue is, it was an oversight. I was trusting of the team and the people that I inherited, (and) when they told me they were doing their job, that they did it. But as the officeholder – somebody who it elected – it is my responsibility ultimately. That's something that I now understand.”
Later in the afternoon, the Clinton County Commissioners and the Clinton County Clerk released the following statement:
“This audit was requested by all elected officials in November of 2020. The auditors revealed to use the vulnerabilities of the county that needed to be addressed. In addition, the auditors did not find any criminal or fraudulent activity. We, the Commission and County Clerk, take this report very seriously. With their help, we have executed the solutions and have installed the proper controls necessary to mitigate these issues from happening in the future. Despite the report, the county has ended each fiscal year in the black over the past three years due to other controls that have already been implemented. Although we may not agree with everything in the report, we thank the Missouri State Auditor's Office for identifying the deficiencies and causes so we can implement the necessary actions that have not already been executed.”
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