Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway today released an audit of the 45th Circuit Court in Lincoln County. The audit questioned purchases and phone reimbursements under the former clerk and detailed errors made in disbursement of municipal fine receipts under the current clerk.
"Courts should operate efficiently, effectively and fairly, and this audit make recommendations to help the circuit court in Lincoln County do just that," Auditor Galloway said. "The court's procedures must ensure funds are spent appropriately and distributed accurately."
The audit was initiated after a whistleblower complaint that alleged possible fiscal mismanagement under the former clerk. Grace Sinclair served as circuit clerk from January 2007 until December 2018.
The report raised concerns about spending from the Interest Fund, which exists to support operations of the Circuit Clerk's office. The audit found $1,875 in purchases that were unnecessary for court operations, including purchases of t-shirts, tumblers and other promotional items, gift cards for court staff and retirement gifts. An additional $3,905 in spending lacked proper documentation and included various items, some of which may have been unnecessary for court operations.
The former clerk also wrote nine checks to herself from the Interest Fund totaling $4,260 in reimbursements for cell phone usage. There was no documented justification for the reimbursement rates used, which varied from $20-50. In some cases, the former clerk would receive the reimbursement significantly later than the reimbursement period. For example, in June and October of 2016, the former clerk wrote three checks to reimburse herself cell phone usage from 2007 through March 2015.
The current clerk, Karla Allsberry took office in January 2019 and served until she was suspended and placed on administrative leave by the presiding judge. A temporary circuit clerk was appointed to serve in the role. At the request of the Attorney General's Office, the audit also reviewed certain court operations from January 2019-June 2019.
The report recommended improvements to the coding of fines and fees received by the court. A coding error that took place from Jan. 1, 2019, until May 10, 2019 resulted in $46,311 in municipal traffic ticket fines going to the state instead of municipalities throughout Lincoln County. The coding errors were corrected in May.
Additional recommendations in the report included improvements to accounting processes to ensure proper checks and balances.
The full report, which received an overall rating of fair, can be found here.