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State audit turns up questionable accounting at city hall

State Auditor Susan Montee
Adam Allington (KWMU)
State Auditor Susan Montee

By Adam Allington, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – A Missouri State audit of the City of St. Louis has turned up some questionable accounting and spending procedures.

State Auditor Susan Montee released audits on Tuesday of the city's board of alderman, supply division, the board of public service and department of personnel.

Among other things, the audits showed that the city is not keeping tabs on the number of vehicles in the city fleet, or documenting how those vehicles are used.

Montee said the fleet issue did not amount to a major breech of public trust, but lack of accounting and regulation opens the door for abuse to occur.

"Did we find a bunch of things where people were taking public assets and using them? We didn't find a whole bunch of that, but we found the ability to, and that's what we want to stop," says Montee.

City Operations Director Ronald Smith says the city does in fact know how many cars are in its fleet, but multiple agencies control different vehicles.

Still, he agreed with the auditor that tighter vehicle accounting would not be a bad thing.

"That has to be has to be done on a department and division basis, in other words, supervisors need to make sure that all of their field staff, all of their employees, anybody that's out there that has fleet, is logging and monitoring how that's being used," says Smith.

The audit also revealed several questionable uses of taxpayer money connected to the board of alderman.

Montee says city code allows aldermen to seek reimbursement for up $4200 in expenses, but does not place restrictions on how that money is spent.

"They let them be used for things like charitable contributions, flowers, gifts, lobbying expenses our issue with this is, are those things a prudent use of city monies?," says Montee.

The audit showed that seven aldermen have submitted reimbursement requests totaling over $10,000.

Aldermanic President Lewis Reed is also permitted use of a luxury sedan that he put over 3,000 miles on for his personal use.

Also of concern is the fact that multiple city agencies are using emergency spending as a means to circumvent the normal spending process.

Montee says the city has been responsive to her suggestions for tighter oversight and vowed to make changes.

The next three audits released will be the city comptroller, the treasurer and the license collector. Those are expected to be delivered before end of year.

In response to a request from the governor, Montee has pushed forward her investigation of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and its involvement with a towing company that bilked the city for over $700,000.