Clay County seal

CLAY COUNTY — While the audit of the Clay County Commission continues to be mired in legal delays, audits of other elected county offices by the state auditor’s office continue. This summer, findings from audits of the Recorder of Deeds and Public Administrator’s offices were completed, and both received “good” ratings.

According to the summary report issued by Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway’s office, a “good” rating indicates the audited entity “is well managed. The report contains few findings, and the entity has indicated most or all recommendations have already been or will be implemented.”

Public Administrator

The public administrator’s office serves as guardian and conservator of a ward’s assets or as representative for a deceased person’s assets. The public administrator can also be appointed by the court to serve as trustee for private or public trusts.

“I am pleased with the outcome of the audit. I would especially like to thank the staff of the public administrator’s office for their hard work and diligence every day in serving the needs of Clay County’s wards and safeguarding their interests,” County Public Administrator Sarah Mill Rottgers told the Courier-Tribune via email. “Together, we will continue to find ways to improve the public administrator’s office to better serve Clay County’s wards.”

For its findings, Galloway’s office reviewed the audit report from the outside firm contracted to conduct the regular annual audit of the county office for the fiscal year that ended in December of 2017.

While the state auditing team found no significant noncompliance with legal provisions or significant deficiencies in management practices and procedures, the state team did find some deficiencies in internal controls relating to sufficient documentation to support disbursements.

According to the audit, a cash receipt form was not maintained for $117, $40 and two $50 cash disbursements to wards. In addition, the audit findings show one recipient section was left blank on a cash receipt for $400, which was used to purchase $284 in groceries and deposit $116 into a ward’s bank account.

“Before 2017, the Public Administrator’s office was operating under the auditing and documentation guidelines of the Social Security Administration, from which almost all of our wards receive income. The public administrator’s staff was trained by SSA that SSA policies require a signature on a cash receipt form or receipt slips from the purchases, not both. Since the public administrator took office in January 2017, improvements have been made gradually, including the tightening of cash-handling procedures to increase accountability,” Mills Rottgers’ auditee response in the state audit states. “… The public administrator’s office thanks the state auditor’s office for their work investigating the concerns of Clay County’s citizens. We appreciate their recommendation for increased improvement and will continue, as always, to find ways to improve the public administrator’s office and better serve our wards.”

Recorder of Deeds

In addition to the public administrator’s office, the recorder of deeds office also received a “good” rating for review of financial statements for the fiscal year ending in December 2017.

“For the areas audited, we identified no significant deficiencies in internal controls, no significant noncompliance with legal provisions and the need for improvement in management practices and procedures,” states the audit findings. The area of management practices needing improvement pertain to the Recorder’s Preservation Fund.

“The Recorder of Deeds authorized disbursements from the Recorder’s Preservation Fund for storage space for the recorder of deeds and other county offices and departments without ensuring the space was used for allowable purposes of RPF monies under state law,” state the audit findings. “To ensure disbursements from the RPF are consistent with the purposes allowed by statute, the recorder of deeds should request documentation about the use of the leased spaces and ensure the use is allowable before authorizing disbursements.”

While the public administrator was happy about her office’s rating, Recorder of Deeds Katee Porter told the Courier-Tribune Monday, July 27, she was frustrated her office received the second highest rating available and not the top rating of “excellent.”

“The audit finding is misleading as storage is specifically listed in the state statute as an acceptable expenditure from the RPF and the auditor does not cite any statute or case law to legitimize either their finding or recommendation. Their complaint is that the recorder’s office paid for disaster proof storage of records at the caves and allowed other elected offices to use extra space there, a practice that was started in 2003 by former Recorder of Deeds Bob Sevier. Allowing other elected officials to utilize the extra space saves money and has gone on for over 15 years. Over the years, not one county auditor or county attorney ever questioned this practice so it is questionable why the state auditor has an issue with it now.”

In auditee response to the audit published in the audit findings, Porter’s office reports drawing up a space use agreement to be signed by each county official or department utilizing the extra space leased by the recorder of deeds.

“All county offices and departments utilizing this space have been directed to remove any items not used for record storage, microfilming and preservation and anything necessarily pertaining thereto,” her response states.

Managing Editor Amanda Lubinski can be reached at amanda.lubinski@mycouriertribune.com or 903-6001.