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      10-5-06  

 

 

 

 

 

Thomas, Montee again cite opposing viewpoints
Should Montee have audited public administrator?

by Dave Kinnamon
Landmark assistant editor

The verbal artillery barrages by the state auditor candidates continue to get launched.

Sandra Thomas, Platte County auditor and the Republican nominee for state auditor, held a press conference on Monday morning in Jefferson City at the capitol rotunda, during which Thomas blasted Democratic nominee Susan Montee for failing to audit the books of former Buchanan County public administrator Bonnie Sue Lawson.

Thomas vocally criticized Montee about the same issue in August.

Lawson resigned her post in August after St. Joseph police detectives raided her office in St. Joseph to seize records related to trustee accounts, private financial accounts the public administrator oversees for county residents who are disabled or declared mentally incompetent without a willing or able guardian.

The law enforcement investigation continues against Lawson.

Montee is the Buchanan County auditor.

At issue, according to Susan Montee, is whether or not it is appropriate for a publicly-elected county auditor to audit private monies. Montee has said repeatedly and firmly that “no, it is not appropriate for the county auditor to audit private accounts.”

Montee appears to gain reinforcement for her views about the matter from none other than conservative Republican and former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. As Missouri’s attorney general back in 1979, Ashcroft made a written finding that discouraged county auditors from auditing private funds overseen by county public administrators.

The Republican state auditor candidate, Thomas, disagrees.

“We know for certain that at least one individual requested that Susan Montee audit the public administrator, and she didn’t do it,” Thomas told The Landmark during a telephone interview on Monday evening.

Thomas claims that the unnamed whistleblower, who was allegedly a former employee of Lawson’s, asked Montee to audit Lawson’s files back in December 2005. Law enforcement detectives raided Lawson’s offices in August 2006. Lawson resigned her post the next day.

Montee remains convinced that she is following the statutes correctly by not auditing private funds.

“I never thought it was ambiguous. No one else who has been asked about this at the beginning has thought so either,” Montee told The Landmark on Tuesday afternoon.

In Buchanan County, and many other first-class counties, the circuit court system is responsible for providing oversight on the private funds managed by the county public administrator.

Montee noted that the Buchanan County judges and the president of the Missouri County Auditors Association (Vic Hurlbert, a Republican, and the Clay County auditor) all determined, in their own opinions, that Montee was correct in not auditing private funds overseen by the county public administrator.
“It’s private money, and there’s nothing for the county auditor to do with it. There isn’t anything going on in Buchanan County. It’s quiet and business as usual, and they’re (Thomas and her campaign aides) are trying to resurrect it one more time,” Montee said.

Thomas highlighted the irony that Platte County’s public administrator in the early 1990s, John Bless, was convicted of taking private monies while in office and actually served time for the offense. Thomas became the Platte County auditor shortly after public administrator Bless was caught. Because of Bless’ misappropriation of funds, Thomas said she changed some things in Platte County.

“We put procedures in place in Platte County to prevent that (officeholder theft) from ever happening again,” Thomas told The Landmark.

 

 
 

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