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Audit finds little progress in Pine Lawn municipal court

The city of Pine Lawn is still struggling to properly manage its municipal court.

Nicole Galloway, auditor for the state of Missouri, released the follow-up review on Monday. An previous audit, from June, gave the Pine Lawn court a "poor" rating, which triggered the need for a second look.

"Municipal courts have an obligation to conduct themselves with fairness. This court has a long way to go to meet the standards that any citizen should have of a local government," Galloway said.

Of the 10 recommendations Galloway's office made in June, the city has fully implemented one and made significant progress on three more. But the follow-up audit found that Pine Lawn violated state law by keeping more than $400,000 in excess revenue from traffic fines and fees in the 2015 fiscal year. The city had not yet calculated its excess revenue for the 2016 fiscal year, which ended in June.

Galloway said her auditors also found the court failed to do basic accounting processes, like reconciling bank statements or determining the amount of outstanding bond liabilities.

Here are those 10 recommendations:

  • Make sure that payments made electronically are matched with deposits made to city accounts, and investigate any differences — In progress
  • Conduct monthly reconciliations of bank statements — Not implemented
  • Put together a complete list of outstanding checks to more accurately compare the book balance to the bank account balance — Partially implemented
  • Generate a monthly total of bonds that have not been paid — Not implemented
  • Put together an accurate total of outstanding costs owed to the court, including fines and fees — Not implemented
  • Make sure that all documentation for a case is in both manual and electronic records — Implemented
  • Make sure that the prosecutor signs all tickets and reviews, and approves all amended or dismissed tickets — Partially implemented
  • File a monthly report of cases with the city — In progress
  • Accurately track the numerical sequence of tickets, and how each case connected to a ticket was disposed of — In progress
  • Ensure the accuracy of the annual calculation of excess traffic fine revenue, and pay back the correct amount to the state — Not implemented

Galloway said lawsuits are preventing her office from forcing the courts to make changes, but she plans to continue auditing municipal courts across the state.
An employee who answered the phone at the Pine Lawn municipal court said city officials would have no comment on Galloway's latest findings.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.