Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway has released an audit of the Office of the St. Louis Recorder of Deeds, which earned an overall performance rating of "poor." The audit independently confirms a number of previously reported allegations made against Recorder of Deeds Sharon Carpenter, including potential inappropriate use of funds and improper bidding practices, along with a number of additional areas of concern.
"Public officials must expect independent review and should be held accountable for making improvements that better serve citizens," Auditor Galloway said. "I'm frustrated Recorder Carpenter continues to defend past actions, despite repeated findings of mismanagement. It's a disservice to the citizens of St. Louis when these opportunities for necessary change are dismissed."
Through a series of selected accounting record reviews, auditors identified approximately $10,000 that was either inappropriately spent, or potentially inappropriately spent from the Records Preservation Account. The law allows fees from the account to only be spent on records preservation and related technology; however, auditors found the recorder’s office ignored laws related to purchases made from the account, including $2,378 on rugs for the recorder and deputy recorder's private offices. In a written response included in the audit, the recorder stated the rugs were part of necessary renovations for technology upgrades.
Overall, Recorder Carpenter spent thousands of dollars from the Records Preservation Account on expenses that did not meet spending requirements, including food, entertainment, furniture, and decorations. The recorder also used the account to pay travel and conference expenses that were not properly documented.
Auditors also confirmed the recorder did not ensure required bidding processes were followed for $313,000 in construction contracts, several of which were awarded to the son of then-Deputy Recorder Peggy Meeker, and noted in previous reports issued by the city counselor and comptroller. The audit also includes information and confirmation of allegations of nepotism that lead to Recorder Carpenter's resignation in July 2014, prior to being re-elected in November 2014.
The audit also found that escrow accounts managed by the recorder's office are not balanced against the city's records. This allows errors to go undetected, and has led to $38,000 identified with no record of where these funds belong, or who they belong to.
This audit of the Office of the St. Louis City Recorder of Deeds was initiated by request of the Governor, in accordance with state law. A complete copy of the report is available here.