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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Country music star Sunny Sweeney will be headlining the first ever Leadership Northwest Music Jam with ticket proceeds benefiting the Leadership Northwest Missouri program.
Country music star Sunny Sweeney will be headlining the first ever Leadership Northwest Music Jam with ticket proceeds benefiting the Leadership Northwest Missouri program. The show will be hosted at Black Silo Winery in Trenton, Mo., on Saturday, September 25. Trenton local Salem Croy will be the special guest opening the music event.
Ticket information is available on the Leadership Northwest Missouri page on Facebook. Doors open at 6 p.m. and this is an outdoor event. Smoked Iguana and 50 Grams Foods will have food trucks available for dinner options.
Leadership Northwest Missouri (LNWMO) is a program for community leaders interested in the regional growth of Northwest Missouri through high-quality training and networking opportunities. Participants are selected from the nineteen counties of the Northwest region and there are currently 440 alumni members that have benefited from this program. Leadership Northwest Missouri is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Sponsors of Leadership Northwest Music Jam include Premier Platinum level sponsors Wright Memorial Hospital and Hedrick Medical Center: Platinum level sponsors are Black Silo Winery, Regional Radio, K4C Premier Cottages, North Central Missouri College, Smithfield, Northwest Health Services, and Northwest Missouri State University Nursing Program; Gold level sponsors are BTC Bank, Main Street Mercantile, Marcia J Cox, ASM, Missouri Farm Bureau Insurance, and Zane and Jordan Jones; Silver level sponsors are Carroll County Memorial Hospital, Farmers State Bank, , Trenton HyVee, Weldon Builders & Construction, and Cobblestone Inn & Suites of Trenton; Bronze level sponsors are Dillon Harp - State Farm Agent, Main Street Trenton - TDIA, and Century 21 Team Elite.
Sunny Sweeney makes it look easy. Just as comfortable commanding a stadium stage on tour with Bob Seger as she is pouring her heart out from a listening-room stool, she is an outlier. A humble East Texas kid with super-star chops, singing her own songs made up of the equal parts wit, soul, and hard truth. Four albums into a career that has earned praise from Rolling Stone, NPT, American Songwriter, and more, Sunny has drawn a loyal following, experienced the major label deal, and ultimately, embraced her independence - and smart country music that likes to have its rock and honky tonk too is that much better for it. Sweeney is currently in the studio at work on her next record. Her hit songs include “From A Table Away,” “Staying’s Worse Than Leaving,” “Better Bad Idea,” and “Bad Girl Phase.”
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