Audit of Iron County uncovers $84,000 mistake by the County Collector’s Office

Audit News Graphic
Share To Your Social Network

A regularly scheduled audit of Iron County released by Missouri State Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick gives the county a rating of “fair” and reveals how the Iron County Collector incorrectly withheld approximately $84,000 in tax revenue that should have been disbursed to political subdivisions in the county.  The “fair” rating provided by the regularly scheduled audit of the county represents a downgrade from the “good” rating it received during its last audit in 2018.

“While I think the county is on the right track with how it has responded to our audit and is moving quickly to put many of our recommendations into place, the failure of the Iron County Collector to distribute $84,000 to other local governments is something that should not have happened and must not happen again. I appreciate that the County Collector has already corrected her error and is taking the appropriate steps to make sure the hard-earned tax dollars of Iron County residents are used appropriately by their county government,” said Fitzpatrick.

The report notes how the County Collector’s Office incorrectly withheld 2 percent on all real and personal property taxes collected rather than withholding the allowed 1 percent. As a result, from December 2022 through January 2023, the County Collector incorrectly withheld approximately $84,000 from real and personal property taxes that should have been disbursed to the political subdivisions. In response to the audit, the County Collector indicated she distributed the incorrect withholdings in November 2023 and is now ensuring the correct amount is withheld.

The audit also found the County Collector did not prepare and file annual settlements for the years ended February 28 (29), 2019, through 2023, in violation of state law, nor did the office prepare formal bank reconciliations for any of the office’s 7 bank accounts during the years ended February 28 (29), 2020, through 2023.

Additionally, the audit found the County Commission used county funds to purchase $1,015 worth of gift cards that were given to county employees who attended a Christmas luncheon in December of 2022. The county also picked up the $800 bill for the luncheon without documenting that it was for a necessary business purpose. The audit recommends the county adopt a policy regarding food and gift purchases and notes the State of Missouri has such a policy which prohibits rewards for employees with a cash equivalent, such as a gift card or a reward of substantial monetary value, and only allows food at official business functions and light refreshments at other agency-sponsored activities.

“The purchase of the gift cards is clearly not an appropriate use of taxpayer funds and I commend the County Commission for taking immediate action to address this problem so it doesn’t happen again,” said Fitzpatrick, who also pointed out that Iron County Presiding Commissioner Jim Scaggs voluntarily reimbursed the county for all gift cards related to the luncheon.

Another finding in the audit focuses on the county’s need to improve compliance with the Sunshine Law, specifically by adopting a written policy regarding public access to county records and developing a log to track Sunshine Law requests. The County Commission also needs to ensure a vote is taken to approve going into a closed meeting. The report found the commission did not vote in an open meeting to go into a closed meeting for 3 of the 21 closed meetings held from January 1, 2022, through October 31, 2023.

The audit report also found the County Commission authorized mid-term salary increases for the Sheriff in violation of the constitutional provisions, and that county records are not adequately protected and are susceptible to unauthorized access or loss of data because the controls over county computers are insufficient. The county has indicated it is working to address both issues.

The previous audit of Iron County completed in 2018 is available here. A complete copy of the current audit of Iron County is available here. The audit reviewed the majority of the Iron County offices; however, it did not include the Iron County Sheriff’s Office, which is the subject of a separate ongoing audit.

Share To Your Social Network