Missouri state auditor's office begins audit of Greene County government

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The Missouri State Auditor's Office began looking into the books of Greene County's government.

It's an audit the state auditor wanted to do for more than a year following whistle-blower complaints about spending. Instead, government leaders in office then chose to pay a private auditor more than $300,000. This led to complaints from taxpayers.

New county presiding commissioner Bob Dixon asked state auditor Nicole Galloway to investigate the county's books as an independent audit. The commission agreed to pay $150,000 of taxpayer funds for a more comprehensive audit than the free version initially offered.

"It is a financial audit but it is forensic, a little bit more detailed than just looking at receipts and expenditures," explained newly elected, presiding commissioner, Bob Dixon.

State Auditor Nicole Galloway is thankful for the opportunity.

"I appreciate the county commission, particularly former Commissioner Lincoln Hough and current Presiding Commissioner Bob Dixon, for requesting this independent review to ensure taxpayer dollars have been used appropriately," Auditor Galloway. "Once completed, the audit will explain in detail any issues we find and provide recommendations for officials to address them. The citizens of Greene County can be assured my office will conduct this audit with the highest professional standards, as we always do."

In preparation for the start of audit work, the state auditor's office has been working with County Administrator Chris Coulter and County Auditor Cindy Stein to ensure the audit is finished as efficiently and effectively as possible.

"Taxpayers want a thorough, independent, review of how their money is being handled and spent in county government," said Galloway.

It's why a whistle blower complaint about how tax money was being spent during the county's campaign for a ballot initiative was filed in 2017.

"Really the purpose of an audit is to shine a light on county government operations, to make recommendations where things need to be improved and give county government the opportunity to make those improvements," she explained.

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway says her team was invited back in to investigate and will start with a risk assessment of every office and department in Greene County.

"Where there's a lot of money that is coming in, where there are decisions around how money is spent, on contracts, on other public expenditures, those are high risk areas because there's an opportunity for funds to be misspent. Those are the areas that we look at, said Galloway.

Once that part of the process is complete her team will take their investigation one step further.

She said, "If we find areas of concern, we’ll dig deeper. If we find no concern, we'll back away and move our resources to where they're needed."

"I've been very vocal in the past about issues and I think people will see that things are run very well at this county whether it's my office or somewhere else," said Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott.

After opposing the audit for more than a year, he now said he's on board with it.

"I think it's good. I think the community will probably see that things are done well," he said.

"Through this audit process we can help restore trust in county government. Ultimately, it will be up to county officials to implement our recommendations so they can prove to citizens that they're taking action to get that trust back," said Galloway.

Auditor Galloway said citizen input is beneficial to audits, and she encouraged residents with information that might be helpful to contact her office. Individuals who would like to provide information for consideration may contact the State Auditor's Whistleblower Hotline at moaudit@auditor.mo.gov or by calling 800-347-8597. Concerns may also be submitted anonymously online at auditor.mo.gov/hotline.