Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway has released an audit of the Benton County public administrator's office, located in central Missouri. The audit raised concerns surrounding questionable transactions, including several thousand dollars paid to the public administrator's family members from the accounts of wards in her care.
"Conflicts of interest, or even the appearance of a conflict of interest, is unacceptable in public office," Auditor Galloway said. "Individuals depend on the public administrator to make decisions that are in their best interest, which means safeguards must exist in order to protect the individuals who depend on those services."
The public administrator is responsible for managing the care and finances of individuals who are unable to do so for themselves, serving as a court appointed guardian and/or conservator. The State Auditor began an investigation into the office after receiving concerns of the handling of an individual's assets.
The audit found the questionable sale of an individual's vehicle to an employee of the public administrator's family-owned accounting business, with the $7,800 in proceeds deposited into the incorrect bank account. The audit also identified payments made to the public administrator's family-owned accounting business and to the public administrator's cousin. These payments included approximately $2,700 from five individual accounts for tax preparation services and transportation expenses.
Auditor Galloway also found the public administrator handled financial duties for some wards without the authority of the court and issued checks without the approval of the Circuit Judge, Probate Division. The public administrator did not adequately monitor finances for some individuals, which led to $370 in bank overdraft fees charged to their accounts.
The report describes concerns with annual settlements and status reports, which were not always filed timely and accurately. In some cases, they were not filed at all for as many as five years. The same issues were identified with inventory report management.
The office received an overall performance rating of poor, which means a follow up report will be conducted later this year. A complete copy of the audit is available online here.