Tensions rise as St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger and Councilman Sam Page debate staffing issues for the St. Louis County Auditor’s office.
Next week Page plans to introduce a resolution that seeks to add more staffing to the County Auditor’s office but Stenger argues the office already has adequate staff but lacks an efficient County Auditor in Mark Tucker.
According to the resolution, Page states that recent media reports have raised concerns by the citizens of St. Louis County and that more oversight is needed of the St. Louis County government.
“The county auditor is an important function and a well-staffed auditor’s office can provide the fiscal oversight and the auditing that’s needed to bring accountability and transparency to county government,” Page said. “The simple truth is that the County Auditor’s office is understaffed. St. Charles County has six auditors and their a third of our size and St. Louis County has two and we’re only budgeted for three.”
The resolution declares that Stenger and the council are in the middle of a dispute regarding Stenger’s duty to cooperate with the County Council in providing adequate staff to the office of the St. Louis County Auditor.
In the resolution, Page intends to seek judicial relief to direct that Stenger proceeds with the hiring of sufficient audit staff and any other budgeted positions in the legislative branch of county government.
“Since April of this year, the Chief of Operations Glenn Powers has told us that he is freezing our ability to hire another County auditor. He’s told us that the county executive is aware of his decision,” he said. “We’ve discussed this with the County attorney and he has told us that it’s fully within the authority of the county executive to impede our ability to hire county auditors. We don’t believe a budgeted position should go unfilled.
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.
Stenger said 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 staff 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,” he 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.”
Stenger dismissed that issue and said it was St. Louis County taxpayers who would be bearing the responsibility of Tucker’s supposed inability to do his job.
“I am very remised on providing a third auditor position. This is what I think is happening — I think for the first time in a decade, we don’t have two auditors in that office because one of the auditors can’t audit,” he said. “The county council is asking the public to pay the price for Mr. Tucker to have someone to do his job. I think it’s completely unfair to taxpayers and it can’t be allowed to happen.”