State Auditor Nicole Galloway released her follow-up review of the Kinloch Fire Protection District, located in St. Louis County, after an audit last year detailed how nearly $100,000 in public funds was missing or spent inappropriately. The follow-up review found that while some of the audit recommendations are implemented or in progress, many were either only partially or not implemented.
"The theft of nearly $100,000 in taxpayer money has a real impact on a community as small as Kinloch. Citizens deserve to know their elected officials will act quickly to make fundamental change to prevent future wrongdoing," Auditor Galloway said. "I urge the board to continue working to restore public confidence, increase transparency and bolster accountability."
Last year's audit detailed $72,484 in improper purchases and cash withdrawals from the district's bank account by the former Board President and former Fire Chief. An additional $25,705 in spending was not properly documented and could not be verified as appropriate. Financial records showed the district did not maintain any documentation for 75% of the transactions occurring between January 2014 and March 2017.
Former Board President Jayna Small and former Fire Chief Darren Small pleaded guilty to federal felony charges while the audit was underway and were ordered to repay $75,000 they had stolen from the district, in addition to prison time for Darren Small. The follow-up review confirmed the district has been receiving restitution payments.
Work to follow-up on the progress of the recommendations began in February. Most efforts by the district to implement the recommendations were not underway until after the State Auditor's Office contacted the district to begin that follow-up review.
The district has held elections to fill board vacancies, implemented a policy prohibiting debit card usage and discontinued payment of employee bonuses. However, financial oversight is still lacking. District personnel do not issue receipts for all money the district receives and Board members do not document their review and approval of invoices before they are paid. While board meetings were held monthly, written minutes had not been prepared for these meetings prior to February.
The follow-up also found that district accounting records were not accurate or updated timely, and the board still does not always pay bills on time and sometimes has to pay late fees due to the delays.
The board also did not approve an annual budget for the 2019 fiscal year until July 2019. The approved budget was incomplete and inaccurate. As of May 31, 2019, the district had spent almost $28,000 more than the approved budget authorized for the entire year.
Of the 25 recommendations reviewed, the follow-up report found that the board had implemented five recommendations, another five were partially implemented and seven were in progress. The remaining eight recommendations had not been implemented and the board has no specific plans to do so.
The follow-up report on Kinloch Fire Protection District can be found here.