The Democrat candidate and the Republican candidate
for Missouri state auditor are both currently
serving as county auditors, in abutting western
Susan Montee, the Democrat candidate, and Sandra
Thomas, the Republican candidate, work only about
30 miles from one another.
Montee, a certified public accountant (CPA) and
attorney, is the Buchanan County auditor, with
her office in St. Joseph. Montee resides with
her family in St. Joseph.
Thomas, a CPA, is the Platte County auditor,
an office she has held for the past 12 years.
Thomas office is at the Platte County administration
building in Platte City, and she and her family
reside in the Tiffany Springs area in Platte County.
Montee and Thomas have a lot in common. They
are two of the only 19 county auditors (of 112
counties in Missouri) who are elected by county
voters rather than hired by the county commission.
Montee and Thomas are regional neighbors. They
are both county auditors. They are both CPAs.
They both seek an important state officestate
auditorcurrently held by Claire McCaskill,
who is running for U.S. Senate against current
U.S. Sen. Jim Talent.
Though Montee and Thomas live and work very close
to one another geographically, the two ladies
opinions about the lessons learned from Platte
Countys recent accounting discrepancies
appear starkly different. Their public accounting
philosophies differ in terms of officeholder accountability.
Montee, who has been Buchanan County auditor
since 2000, believes that the recent $195,000
accounting discrepancy in the Platte County treasury
could have been solved earlier with better communication
between the Platte County auditors and treasurers
The thing that jumps out at the beginning
is the lack of communication between the officeholders
(in Platte County), Susan Montee told The
Landmark on Monday.
In our county (Buchanan), we really try
to communicate well with all officeholders, regardless
of their party affiliation. If you cant
work with the officeholders from your county,
what does that say about your ability to work
with the officeholders at the state? Montee
After the $195,000 discrepancy between Platte
Countys general ledger and its main checking
account was first disclosed by county treasurer
Bonnie Brown last month, Sandra Thomas placed
the blame squarely on Browns shoulders.
Thomas sent an email to all the commissioners
criticizing Brown for hiding the discrepancy
from the county auditors office.
Montee believes that the accounting function
belongs to the auditors office and that
it was incumbent on Thomas to make herself aware
of the imbalance and to discover the source of
Accounting issues are the responsibility
of the auditor. She (Thomas) needs to take responsibility
for the accounting of Platte County. If this had
happened in my county, it would be all my fault.
I would take the blame, Montee said.
Thomas believes Montees criticisms are
all politically, rather than professionally, motivated.
Its an election year. My opponent
would like to make a big deal of this discrepancy
for political purposes, Thomas told The
Landmark on Tuesday.
Thomas breaks the $195,000 accounting discrepancy
into three categories.
Thomas says a duplicate $62,000 interest entry
in the countys ledger was made by Groszek
in 2004 after Thomas had already posted the entry
correctly earlier in the year. Groszek failed
to disclose the duplicate $62,000 interest entry
to her office, Thomas claims.
At the Buchanan County auditors office,
Montee and her staff begin the process of wrapping
up the years accounting almost at stroke
of midnight on the last day of the year,
We reconcile everything at the end of the
year because in January the commission has to
adopt a new budget. We have to have accurate carry-forward
numbers from the previous year to give to the
commission, Montee said.
Montee highlighted the fact that the Buchanan
County auditors office reviews the Buchanan
County treasurers monthly bank reconciliation
to ensure it balances with the countys general
ledger. Every month her office does this.
This review function is a duty of the county
auditor, Montee believes.
My reading of the statute is that the auditor
is responsible for ensuring that the monthly reconciliations
and the auditors books strike a balance,
As an example, Montee referred to a time when
the Buchanan County books were off by 9 cents.
Montee and her staff continued to trace the difference
until they reconciled the 9 cents, Montee said.
The statutes to which Montee referred are Missouri
Revised Statutes 55.010 and 55.160, which describe
the duties and responsibilities of Missouris
Thomas offered to do a monthly review of the
treasurers bank reconciliation as a proposed
partial solution to the countys accounting
problems. Thomas said this corrective procedure
would be implemented immediately at Platte County
except that the treasurer has to get some
2006 financial statements reconciled first.
Platte Countys external auditor, Mike Groszek,
of the accounting firm Troutt, Beeman & Co.,
P.C., of Harrisonville, recommended the same in
his special report to the Platte County commissioners
Point 9 of Groszeks written recommendations
states, When the treasurers office
completes the monthly bank reconciliation it should
be forwarded and signed off by the auditors
office. This will help ensure that any reconciliation
difficulties will be communicated in a timely
Montee was clear in stating her opinion that
the accounting function is the job of the county
auditor. The buck stops with the auditor,
The majority of the $195,000 discrepancy is due
to $122,000 in checks posted to the countys
main checking account ledger number instead of
a segregated funds ledger number, Groszek determined
in his findings, a point in which Thomas concurs.
Thomas said she located this $122,000 and made
a correcting entry in the countys books
this past March.
We will have to reverse that $122,000 entry
that I made if we are to implement Mr. Groszeks
$122,000 correction, Thomas said.
Thomas also noted that each correcting entry
is logged into a journal at the time the correction
is made and that Platte County treasurer Bonnie
Brown receives a copy of all the journal entries
made by the auditors office.
Vic Hurlbert, Clay County auditor and a fellow
CPA, analyzed Groszeks special report from
last Thursday and believes, like Montee, that
lack of communication between Platte County officeholders
was a main cause for Platte Countys recent
$195,000 accounting fiasco.
I think Platte County needs better communication
between the treasurers office and the auditors
office. There comes a point in time when you have
to cross party lines and get things worked out,
Hurlbert told The Landmark.
Hurlbert is president of the Missouri Association
of County Auditors, a sub-group of the Missouri
Association of Counties.
Both Thomas and Montee are members of the Missouri
Association of Auditors. Hurlbert said he knows
both women well because of the association and
through the threes common profession of
Hurlbert also emphasized that he has close friendships
with both women and that his comments are unbiased
and aimed toward the auditing and accounting jobs,
not individual people.
Hurlbert also disclosed during The Landmark interview
that he supported Thomas during the recent Republican
primary for Missouri State auditor.
When youre dealing with cash, you
have to make sure that the cash balances match
up with the general ledger accounts. No one stole
any money in Platte County, they just put it in
the wrong bucket, Hurlbert said.
The auditor is like the final frontier,
the final watchdog of public funds, he said.
Errors happen in any county. Its
a matter of finding out why, not pointing fingers,
According to external auditor Groszek, about
$11,000 of the $195,000 imbalance was due to incorrect
interest posting in 2004 and 2005.
To Thomas, these incorrect postings should have
been caught by the treasurers office.
The treasurers office did not reconcile
the bank statements in a timely manner. If she
had, we would have caught it and corrected it.
We would never have had this issue, Thomas
To Thomas, the root problem was a lack of communication
from the treasurers office.
My office has done everything to try to
work with the treasurers office. She failed
to communicate that she had a problem. She did
not communicate the problem to anyone. We cant
remedy the problem when we dont know about
it, Thomas said.
Thomas stands by the performance of the Platte
County auditors office.
Im proud of my record. I have a record
of nine consecutive national awards. I will compare
my record to hers (Susan Montees) any day
of the week, Thomas said.