A yearslong audit into the former Greene County Commission resulted in a "poor" grade from state Auditor Nicole Galloway's office this week, and its previous leader is taking issue with the results.
The matter at hand dates back to 2017, when former Greene County communications and public engagement director Trysta Herzog filed a whistleblower complaint with Galloway's office, alleging she was told by former Presiding Commissioner Bob Cirtin to spend work time promoting a political action committee for a tax proposal, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting. Such action by government employees is prohibited by Missouri law. The state recorded an additional 25 whistleblowers in the case against Greene County, according to the auditor’s office.
Galloway's audit – which launched in 2019 after a request from Presiding Commissioner Bob Dixon – found Cirtin used his official county email to encourage other employees to engage in campaign activity for the sales tax, according to a news release. The "poor" grade for the former commission is the lowest of four possible scores. County officials say the commission has not received a "poor" grade before.
"I appreciate the cooperation of the current commission to bring this review to completion, after prolonged efforts by two former commissioners to prevent taxpayers from seeing how their tax dollars were used," Galloway said in the release, without stating the names of the commissioners.
In a statement provided to Springfield Business Journal, Cirtin said he knew "the auditor's report would be a political witch-hunt filled with half-truths and innuendos."
"I would also like to remind taxpayers that the outstanding accounting firm, KPM CPAs & Advisors, has conducted Greene County's financial audit for many years. Every year, KPM has given Greene County a clean audit finding," Cirtin said in the statement. "This includes the time period audited by the state auditor."
The audit report issued Nov. 23 from Galloway's office found taxpayers paid more than $25,000 in legal invoices sent to the personal address of Cirtin for a Missouri Ethics Commission complaint. Cirtin previously eschewed Galloway’s audit request in favor of an MEC investigation into the allegations of misuse of public funds, according to past reporting.
The former commission retained representation from law firms to the tune of more than $34,000, without soliciting competitive bids, according to the release. It did not enter a contract with one of the firms.
In a news release, Dixon said the results of the audit "are not surprising."
"The public was very aware of the issues with the prior commission," he said in the release. "Beginning in January of 2019, the current commission took steps to remedy many of these issues. We have also addressed other issues using the guidance provided by the state auditor’s office in accordance with Missouri law."
The MEC dismissed the case in 2018, finding there were “no reasonable grounds” to support allegations that Commissioners Cirtin, Lincoln Hough and Harold Bengsch, as well as Sheriff Jim Arnott, committed the alleged acts of public misuse of funds. Cirtin was cleared by a special prosecutor that same year, according to past reporting.
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