Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway has released an audit of the Shelbina municipal court, located in Shelby County in northeast Missouri. The audit identified concerns with court operations, including disorganized records, missing money and practices that increase the risk for loss or misuse of public dollars.
"My audit shows a court in disarray, with muddled financial records and a lack of oversight that allowed the previous court clerk to make decisions on cases that were not approved and not based on court rules or the law," Auditor Galloway said. "It is unacceptable for a public body to operate in this manner, and it raises concerns as to whether citizens have routinely received unfair treatment by this court."
In the course of the investigation, auditors found the clerk was able to change tickets and fines without approval from the judge. This lack of oversight allowed the clerk to determine what would be charged for certain violations without regard to what is permitted in the fine schedule. In one example, the clerk charged a defendant $200 more than the approved amount.
The audit also uncovered $1,280 in missing payments. The money was listed in the court management system as received, but never deposited. A separate account initially appeared to be missing nearly $4,000. Upon further review auditors found the discrepancy was due to a $3,900 payment from the court to the city that had accidentally been made twice, once in April of 2015, and again three months later.
The audit found court records were inaccurate, incomplete, and disorganized. For 83% of cases reviewed, information in the paper records did not match what had been entered into the electronic system. In cases where tickets had been amended, 22% had been amended by the court clerk with no approval from the judge.
The city of Shelbina has a population of 1,700 people and covers 2.5 square miles. It is located 8 miles south of Shelbyville, which is the county seat and the home of the county's circuit court. The audit was initiated after the municipal judge discovered the clerk had charged citizens court fines that did not match approved amounts. The clerk was terminated and the State Auditor's Office was contacted to provide a forensic audit of court finances.
The Shelbina municipal court received an overall performance rating of poor, which means auditors will return later this year to determine whether corrective action has been taken. A complete copy of the audit report for the Shelbina municipal court is available online here.