Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway today issued an audit report for the City of Winfield municipal court. In it, Auditor Galloway describes a court with lax oversight procedures that increase the risk for errors to go unnoticed.
"Missourians have a right to expect that all cases and court decisions will receive a thorough review in accordance with requirements set forth in the law and through court rules," Auditor Galloway said. "I believe additional oversight and compliance with the law would serve to further public trust in our legal system."
Although Missouri court rules require the prosecuting attorney to sign all citations, the Winfield court clerk has the ability to amend tickets and use a signature stamp to add the prosecuting attorney's "signature" to certain tickets in lieu of the prosecuting attorney actually signing the documents. In some cases, there was no documentation to show the prosecuting attorney actually reviewed and approved amendments, raising a concern for potential misuse of the signature stamp.
The audit also notes a lack of documentation for annually required vehicle stop information reported to the Attorney General's Office. Without all corresponding records and documentation, it's difficult to determine whether accurate information was reported to the Attorney General's Office, and in some cases, auditors found records that did not match the information provided in the annual report.
The audit also identifies incorrect calculations used to determine whether city revenue from traffic fines and court costs exceeded a 30 percent cap on the amount of money cities could previously keep from those violations. The city determined it had not exceeded the threshold and therefore did not owe any money to the state for the 2014 fiscal year; however, in a review of records, auditors determined the city actually owed $30,000 to the state.
The Winfield municipal court audit was conducted as part of the State Auditor's Office Municipal Courts Initiative. This initiative expands the standard court audit process. In addition to reviewing financial transactions, accounting practices, and compliance with court rules and state law, auditors also review statistical information, tickets and other penalties to identify improper activities or practices that may impair impartiality or damage the court's credibility with citizens.
The full audit report for the Winfield municipal court, which received an overall performance rating of "fair," can be found here.