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Galloway encourages Callaway County to request collector's office audit

Galloway encourages Callaway County to request collector's office audit

March 20th, 2018 by Bob Watson in Local News

In this May 11, 2015 photo, State Auditor Nicole Galloway is interviewed in her Missouri Capitol office.

Photo by Julie Smith /News Tribune.

State Auditor Nicole Galloway's office is ready to audit the Callaway County Collector's books — as soon as county officials ask for it.

Under state law, Galloway noted in a news release and in a one-page letter sent to Presiding Commissioner Gary Jungermann, her office audits the county collector's office when there's a change in the officeholder — but can't begin that audit until Gov. Eric Greitens has named someone to succeed Collector Pam Oestreich, who resigned last week.

Greitens spokesman Parker Briden didn't immediately answer a request for a comment Monday on that process.

However, that audit can begin more quickly if county officials request it, and Galloway said Monday her staff has been in contact with Callaway County officials about expediting the Collector's Office audit.

"County officials have been proactive in working with our office, and we stand ready to offer our expertise in investigating suspicious or improper activity," Galloway said. "I am committed to protecting taxpayers, fighting corruption and holding public officials accountable for their actions."

The collector's office was closed when Oestreich submitted her resignation shortly after Prosecuting Attorney Chris Wilson and Sheriff Clay Chism contacted the FBI about what has been called "suspicious activity" in a Callaway County checking account the collector managed.

Wilson said Central Bank officials met with him last Thursday to discuss that activity, but no details have been released.

Galloway said she asked county officials to ask for the audit work to begin more quickly, "due to the nature of the resignation and the troubling allegations," and to "get answers for Callaway County taxpayers."

In a one-page letter sent to Presiding Commissioner Gary Jungermann, Galloway noted state law allows second-class counties to ask her office for an audit of "any particular officer or office of the county," by having the county commission pass an ordinance or resolution making the request.

Once her office receives a copy of that ordinance or resolution, Galloway said, "my office (can) begin the audit immediately."

And, she told Jungermann, the cost to the county's taxpayers is the same.

In her news release, Galloway reminded the public that "individuals may provide confidential information for consideration during the investigation to the State Auditor's Whistleblower Hotline at 800-347-8597, or by email at moaudit@auditor.mo.gov."

Officials aren't sure when the Callaway County collector's office will re-open.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Randy Kleindienst said last week, Cole and Audrain county collectors have agreed to accept a cashier's check or money order from Callaway County residents so they can pay Callaway County personal property taxes, and get the receipt needed for things like renewing a vehicle registration.

County officials are also providing tax records to an outside auditor, they said.