Candidates for Missouri State Auditor Trade Charges of Incompetence

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Democrat Susan Montee and Republican Sandra Thomas, opposing candidates for Missouri state auditor, accused each other in a series of charges and countercharges this week of failing to exercise their responsibilities as auditors of their home counties.

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Montee, a certified public accountant (CPA) and auditor of Buchanan County, said on Monday that an independent audit of Thomas' office in Platte County, which revealed a $195,000 error in the county's books, showed that Thomas, also a CPA, was incompetent.

The auditors' report, released last week “says the errors are Sandra Thomas' – they are squarely within the auditor's office,” Montee said, according to the Associated Press.

Thomas responded in a news conference on Wednesday that in her role as County Auditor, Montee should have looked more closely at the office of Buchanan County's public administrator, now under investigation in a financial scandal.

Thomas, of Kansas City, asserted that none of the errors in Platte County's books were made by her office, but that they were the responsibility of the County Treasurer, a Democrat and the independent auditor. “This is something that if it weren't an election year would never have even become public at all,” Thomas said, the AP reports.

The independent audit was conducted by Michael Gorszek of Troutt, Beeman and Co. of Harrisonville, after the county's general ledger showed $195,865 more than the bank account as of December 31, 2005, the AP says. Part of the error, $62,569, resulted from duplicate entries of interest made in 2004 and 2005 by the independent auditor. An additional $121,855 error occurred when checks were entered in a construction account when they should have been booked in the county's main account.

When all of the adjustments were made, there was $33 more in the bank balance than on the general ledger.

The scandal involving Buchanan County's public administrator, Bonnie Sue Lawson, who has resigned, surrounds her management of the assets of elderly and disabled citizens of Buchanan County who are deemed by the courts to be unable to manage their own affairs, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports. Thomas' campaign issued a statement on Wednesday suggesting that more than $4 million in private assets was missing in Buchanan County.

Montee says that she has no jurisdiction in the matter, the Post Dispatch says. She said that she had provided information to the circuit court, which has oversight over the estates where management of assets has been questioned. Thomas said she believes Missouri law allows county auditors to probe a public administrator's actions.

The Associated Press invited Clay County Auditor, Vic Hurlbert, a Republican like Thomas, to review the Platte County independent auditors' report. He agreed with the report, that the errors were the responsibility of the County Auditor, as the office responsible for detecting errors. He added that county auditors and local treasurers needed to work together.

“I think it probably reflects poorly on the cooperation between the treasurer and the auditor,” Hurlbert said. “Political season or not, the point is they need more conversation and communication between the two offices.”

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