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Audit details wide-ranging problems at the St. Louis Police Department

By Adam Allington, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis, Mo. – State Auditor Susan Montee released an audit on Tuesday detailing a wide-ranging lack of oversight of the St. Louis Police Department's financial operations.

The audit cited underpayments from tow companies, missing cash seized as evidence, as well as questionable severance payments to former staff, including outgoing Police Chief Joe Mokwa.

The problems at the department, especially the towing scandal, were covered widely by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The paper had said the towing company had shortchanged the department by about $700,000, but Montee says that figure is closer to $450,000.

Additionally, Montee highlighted a lack of controls on police department credit cards. A random sample of purchases found a variety of questionable charges by the former chief.

"We found purchases, about $3,000 worth of purchases, that were made at clothing and department stores, local restaurants and ticket venues, most of these were the former police chief," Montee said.

Current Chief Dan Isom said the department has reviewed the charges in question and found them to be valid.

The audit also highlighted "excessive severance payments" including $108,000 paid to outgoing Chief Mokwa when he was forced to retire last year.

Isom said when he replaced Mokwa, the department began a point-by-point process of addressing many of the concerns raised by the newspaper, and state auditors.

"It's clear based on the audit that there were some significant problems with practices and procedures and oversight of the police department," concedes Isom. "We can't deny that, so what I'm focused on as chief of police is what do we do going forward?'"

Board of Police Commissioners President Todd Epsten said the board failed in its oversight role, but is confident that Isom will fix the problems.