Councilman Mark Harder on Tuesday called for the St. Louis County Auditor to provide an update on completed audits to the St. Louis County Council.
In addition to the status of audits that St. Louis County Auditor Mark Tucker has conducted, Harder also requested to hear an update on the hiring of personnel for the Auditor’s Office.
“I sent a letter through to all the council members asking for an update on audits performed since March, as well as the performance of trying to find additional auditors for the department,” Harder said. “I’m anxiously waiting to find out what he does every day back there.”
Harder said the County Council held a budget meeting this year, and Tucker didn’t provide any clear answers regarding his office.
“We had a budget meeting and he was part of that and he didn’t provide a lot of concrete information on hiring and things seemed to be above his knowledge level,” he said. “I wasn’t impressed with what I saw. I just wish someone would step forward and be a good auditor for us.”
Controversy first arose surrounding the St. Louis County Auditor’s Office after an investigative report conducted by KMOV revealed Tucker owing thousands to the IRS.
Additionally, it was shown that Tucker hasn’t completed any audits when on average the county auditor performs eight audits a year.
According to Harder, he’s made similar requests to check the status of Tucker’s work but was left with the same unanswered questions.
“I asked it for it around June and was given incomplete information and was information that was left over from the year before when he wasn’t even here and at that time there were no audits completed,” he said. “I want to find out now (that) he’s almost had a year under his belt if he’s done anything. From what I’ve seen, I don’t think there’s going to be a change. I think taxpayers need to know what this person is being paid to do.”
In September, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger said that the St. Louis County Auditor’s Office previously operated close to a decade with just two audit staff and the problem lies with Tucker.
“I don’t think that some members of the County Council have demonstrated that they are good stewards of taxpayer money. I don’t know if they’re taking frankly their job as council members seriously enough,” Stenger said. “This is a very serious position in St. Louis County government and is currently occupied by an individual who doesn’t show up for the job, who doesn’t meet the basic charter requirements and he hasn’t produced a single audit in six months.”
Page addressed that issue by saying the office was disorganized and suggested an inadequate staffing level was part of the issue.
“I think that’s part of the problem. Another part of the problem is the office has been in disarray and he’s been organizing it,” Page said. “He’s in the process of working through the request of proposals for an outside financial audit and that’s an event that happens every three years. We’re happy with his progress, he’s doing what he needs to do to get this office organized. Regardless of that, we need to fill this auditor position and we need to move forward with it.”
As a result of the county executive blocking the county auditor from hiring additional staff, St. Louis County Councilmembers Sam Page, Ernie Trakas, Rochelle Walton-Gray, and Hazel Erby filed suit in the St. Louis County Circuit Court in October.
According to the lawsuit, it “arises out of an attempt by the St. Louis County Executive to interfere with the County Auditor’s work in auditing the executive branch of County Government. The County Charter provides that the County Council shall appoint the County Auditor and hire the Auditor’s staff. But the County Executive and his appointees have been interfering with that process by frustrating efforts by the Auditor to hire auditing staff.”
Covering police overtime pay
Also on Tuesday, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar sent a letter to both the St. Louis County Council and St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger requesting that the county police department receive a supplemental appropriation for $3 million.
Belmar said the appropriation would cover the amount of overtime needed to pay the officers who provided security during the Stockley verdict.
The police chief said over $1.6 million was needed to provide a police presence during the Stockley verdict unrest.
According to Belmar, the overtime expenses were directly related to staffing levels in an “operation that works 24/7/365” and has depleted the St. Louis County Police Department’s overtime budget.