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Following Audit Presentation: Is a Forensic Audit Needed? Kelly Says No, Saunders Says Yes

Following the auditor's presentation Tuesday, some thought more needed to be looked into.

Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich had bad news for Brentwood residents Tuesday. His audit of the city found 21 things in need of improvement.

Schweich spoke to several hundred in the main meeting room of the Brentwood Rec Center.

“Twenty-one is a large number of findings,” he said. “That’s much more than we usually see. That’s the bad news.”

See a Patch article with the content of the audit.

Schweich gave Brentwood a ‘poor’ rating, the lowest possible in his four-tier grading system.

He didn’t say there was good news, but he said no criminal conduct was uncovered, and that the current city administration seems committed to fixing the problems.

He said his office spent almost 1,500 hours on the audit, which will cost the city approximately $70,000. He said it came in on budget.

When a city gets a ‘poor’ rating, a follow-up team returns in 90 days for a follow-up audit.

“We will issue a follow-up report and let every one of you know if the recommendations we made, have in fact been implemented,” he said.

Ward 1 Alderwoman Marueen Saunders spearheaded the petition that triggered the audit.

She said she’s glad about what’s been uncovered, so they can be corrected.

Schweich said there was the opportunity for fraud to happen, given the poor accounting controls, and Saunders a forensic audit would be warranted.

“In a forensic audit, they’re trained specialists, they only follow the trail as far back as it goes, and while they’re going, if they detect any other weaknesses, they can implement the necessary controls, so you’re getting your internal control also implemented in a priority basis.

She said the cost would be $50,000 to $75,000, and would require a board vote. Saunders also said compared to what the city has lost through poor practices, it would be a good investment.

Resident Julie Pozzo helped Saunders collect petition signatures for the audit. She also hoped the board would support a forensic audit to look back earlier than 2011.

Ward 4 Alderman Patrick Toohey was optimistic that the city can implement the auditor’s recommendations in 90 days.

“We’ve already started a lot of it. The audit was 2011, we’re already half way through 2013, so a lot of it has been done.” He said it’s not difficult work, but it’s tedious and time consuming.”

Mayor Pat Kelly said it was a painful process to go through.

“I think we need to take very seriously the things that he revealed to us and make the corrections,” he said.

He said people who doubt the seriousness of elected officials to make the changes have political motivations.

“I think the elected officials and staff have the best interest in the community in their day to day operations,” he said.

Kelly said a forensic isn’t needed.

“The federal prosecutor went back three years in their investigation” he said, referring to the investigation into then city administrator Chris Seemayer.

“From my understanding, they looked at every check going back to 2008, we’ve had a state audit, and they don’t see any indications of fraud, and I’m sure that they looked back at issues that people may have brought up.”

Do you think a forensic audit is needed? Would it improve your confidence in the Brentwood elected officials?

Matt Saunders May 08, 2013 at 01:24 PM
I am sorry Mayor Kelly, I have to disagree with you whole heartedly about your comment in regards to elected officials having the city's best interest in mind with their day to day activities. I say this because early on in Alderman Saunders being added to the board she pointed the health benefits being taken by other Alderman was against city Ordinance. Even with this the Alderman continued to fight to mantain these benefits, knowingly taking from the city what they rightfully could not. At the most recent meeting, it was necessary for me to point out the munipal code for you to even consider doing an inventory audit, a citizen should not have to stand in front of the board and ask them to do what city code requires. Right now your fighting against a rising tide of distrust in many of our long term elected officials who have led us to this "poor" rating. For us now to be told that they have our best interest in mind, I completely disagree. From my view they have had their own personal interest in mind and have put the city employees pay, benefits and illegal bonuses ahead of the true owners of this city, the residents. The words you speak are being drowned out by the actions of the boards. Matt
Matt Saunders May 08, 2013 at 01:28 PM
It is important for all of us citizens to realize these are not personal attacks on any elected officials. Outside of city hall they are good friends, good neighbors, good parents, good sons and daughters and good spouses. I would easily have a beer with any of them. This is specifically about a job review in regards to their decisions in handling the affairs of Brentwood.
Jim Pozzo May 08, 2013 at 01:28 PM
If there is nothing to hide, and after the "Poor" grade given by the State Auditor's Office, our elected officials owe it to the residents to have a forensic audit performed on the city's books. That would be the right thing for the elected officials to do. One example of why a forensic audit is needed: Eric Hinson, the former Ladue fire chief and St. Clair fire chief, pled guilty to misuse of public funds. He was treasurer of the St. Clair Fire Protection district and his crime was not discovered until a forensic audit was performed. According to the news stories the audit was triggered by a request for reimbursement boots for Hinson's son. This would have never been discovered without a forensic audit and Hinson was so highly thought of that he was hired to replace Chief Drury now of the Brentwood Fire Dept. From US Attorney Eastern MO February 6, 2013 St. Louis, MO - Eric Hinson pled guilty to mail fraud and multiple tax evasion charges involving his misuse of approximately $593,236 of St. Clair Fire Protection District funds between January 2006 and September 2011. Full press release: http://www.justice.gov/usao/moe/news/2013/february/hinson_eric.html
Jim Pozzo May 08, 2013 at 01:52 PM
Sorry, Chief Jury, not Drury, the hotel. And I believe there would be no cost to the city for the forensic audit. The Brentwood police investigation went back in time for only Seemayer's embezzlement but that is when other misuse of funds showed up that were not investigated any further.
Mel May 08, 2013 at 02:07 PM
Any mayor that creates a "poor" review under their watch should be expecting a forensic review too. He needs to stop talking and let the residents clean this mess up and then he needs to look for another line of work.
Tim Michelson May 08, 2013 at 02:21 PM
Of course Maureen wants a forensic audit. I hope you all realize is what she really wants if for either she and her husband to become mayor, and if you all think we have problems now. God help us if that happens and that circus begins. She has no qualifications.
Thomas Gibson May 08, 2013 at 02:29 PM
This has been going on for a while now. Lets settle it, or is Pat scared to?
Ed May 08, 2013 at 02:32 PM
Fact: Brentwood has a poor rating Fact: follow up in 90 days for update on recommendations Fact: Brentwood residents will benefit from improved procedures and check and balances Fact: it took Brentwood citizens to uncover irregularities , it was not a Board initiative! How can Brentwood regain confidence in their elected officials? A forensic audit! It will clear up any future accusations of past impropriety and it will save money in the long run by not having to revisit the past every election year!! Get everything out in the open! If there is nothing to hide then why not? If elected officials are worried about what a forensic audit will show , then SHAME on them! This should not be about politics but about what is right!
Mr. Completely May 08, 2013 at 03:23 PM
Gee Tim….please share with us what YOU think what would qualify a person to be mayor of Brentwood. As far as the circus in Brentwood, it began about 20 years ago with the Target development under Kurtz its 2013 and we’ve gone from circus to side show. IMO we should rope off city hall and turn it into a petting zoo. Charge 1.00 to pet the mayor, 50 cents to pet an alderman, take a shuttle bus to Harrah’s and pet Seemayer for $10.00.
Richard Emery May 08, 2013 at 03:29 PM
Tim, she identified the problems within the city, she called for the audit, and helped get the signatures along with numerous citizens. She was 100% right with her suspicions. She is guilty of only ONE thing! FIXING A HUGE PROBLEM WITHIN THE CITY. WERE YOU THERE LAST NIGHT? We would have NEVER found all the wrongs in city hall without Maureen. Thank you , Maureen.
Jim Schmuke May 08, 2013 at 05:32 PM
Great job Maureen !! Tim, as my parents always said, "If you don't have anything intelligent to say, don't say anything."
Karen Smith May 08, 2013 at 06:11 PM
Many of the alderman still participate in the state pension program...also an abuse in my opinion.
Tim Michelson May 08, 2013 at 07:46 PM
You all have your own agenda. You're going to slander anybody in your way. Just keep in mind that what this administration has done overall to develop Brentwood. No one is making excuses for what Mr. Seemayer did, however the way you all want to attack the mayor. You should be ashamed! No one loves Brentwood more, or has given more for our city than Mayor Kelly!
Matt Saunders May 08, 2013 at 08:29 PM
Tim - again, please look at my second comment, Mayor Kelly is a very nice person. No one is questioning his love for the city. The auditor is the one who gave us a poor grade, this is not a bunch of citizens calling the Mayor names. All this development was intended to put the city on stronger financial ground. Instead our reserves are well below the recommended rate of the 25% minimum, and our finances have been a mess. Right now Mayor Kelly has to accept the fact that this all happened under his watch. If he is not responsible for this given he was voted in to be responsible for this, then who his? Again you need to seperate the task, Mayor Kelly running the city, from the person, Pat Kelly. These are two seperate topics. Matt
Karen Smith May 08, 2013 at 10:14 PM
I agree with Matt...the results of the audit finding reflect on the ability of individuals (elected and employed) to perform the duties of their respective positions...and is not a reflection on them as a person. Although the series of events in Brentwood (inlcuding the audit) have not been easy for anyone to live through, we have a fiduciary responsibility own up to the problems and to correct them. As Tom Schwiech, the audit was needed..and thanks to Maureen and all those who helped collect the signatures.
Karen Smith May 08, 2013 at 10:22 PM
The mayor may have shown up late...but Tom Schweich indicated in his opening comments that his audit touched on 1 year only -- 2011. They only went back to previous years if the "trail' led them there. So I think a forensic audit is warranted given the extent of lax oversight. Again...not to attack individuals...but to understand where the break down in processes and procedures are occurring. In researching othrer municipalities, performance audits are oftened followed by forensic audits....especially when problems are identified..and they haven't had nearly the number of problems identified as Brentwood.
Karen Smith May 08, 2013 at 10:30 PM
If individuals in Brentwood doubt the seriousness of elected officials to make the changes, it isn't because we have polictical motivations at all...and more with the actions of elected officials. Although Brentwood has been promised that things will improve, we haven't seen it. And although Tom Schweich is hopeful that the city will implement the state's recommendations, I have been told in the past by elected officials and the former city administrator that the auditors recommendations are just recommendations and that they don't have to be implemented.
Karen Smith May 08, 2013 at 10:47 PM
If residents in Brentwood doubt the seriousness of elected officials to make the changes it is NOT BECAUSE WE HAVE POLITICAL MOTIVATIONS...but rather is based on the actions of elected officials. Despite promises to "change" and "increase transparency" littel has changed. We do have some new staff with some impressive credentials...but they act under the direction of the BOA. And although Tom Schweich is confident that elected officials/Brentwood will rectify the list of fiscal missteps, I have been told in the past by elected officials that auditors recommendations are just recommendations and do not need to be implemented.
Mr. Completely May 08, 2013 at 11:03 PM
Anyone who believes that Kelly is mayor because he loves Brentwood is living in fantasy land; it’s all about the EGO! Kelly has micromanaged every aspect of the city since he was elected mayor after serving as an alderman for a few years. His claim to fame is his degree in municipal government. I guess that’s what Tim is talking about when mentions qualifications. I’d submit that every single embarrassing issue (especially the financial theft and mismanagement) that has come up in recent years is the fault of the mayor, the buck stops at his desk. The only reason Kelly still has keys to the city hall this morning is because he is elected, not hired or appointed. Corporate America does not tolerate such incompetence. If Donald Trump were here he’d say: Kelly You’re Fired! HAHHAHAHAHHA
Bill McKenzie May 09, 2013 at 12:38 AM
The forensic audit is a good idea provided it is not exorbitantly expensive. It could highlight problems we are not otherwise aware of. I am most concerned however with the future. After the 90 days are over I expect the abuses to be corrected. That is because everyone will be looking closely. But what about in one year, two years or five years? City officials will slide back into taking the easy ways of the past - it is human nature. It is necessary to have ongoing oversight. I would feel a lot better if we had an annual audit provided by an independent source from this point forward so that everything is transparent and there is no conflict of interest as has happened so often before.
Tim Michelson May 09, 2013 at 02:23 AM
And im sure youre a man of high qualifications............. "Mr. Completely" Why dont you be a man and put your real name behind your comments instead of cowardly bashing people behind a childish pseudonym
Mr. Completely May 09, 2013 at 03:11 AM
Timmy- You're a little late with the name debate. Yes, I'm Mr. Completely.....I guess you're one of the Mensa member- birthers looking for the birth certificate worrying about everything except the issue at hand? NEXT; like I said, what do you think qualifies a person to be Brentwood mayor? ALSO …whats the problem with Saunders wanting to be mayor? I guess Kelly wanted to be street sweeper and accidently ended up as mayor? HAHHAHAHAHAH
Bob Earthal May 09, 2013 at 06:09 PM
I think you are being charitable for seperating the individuals from the deeds. I might be a little more forgiving if the incompetence and corruption were not accompanied by arrogance and secrecy. The mayor and the board members are neither stupid or naive. They are posessed with the arrogance that comes from being too comfortable in their positions, and the belief that their superior vision, judgement, and good intentions trump the procedures designed to restrain them. Anyone who has workied in the private sector is familiar with periodic performance reviews: an audit of our work habits and contibutions. No one likes them, but if we are honest with ourselves, we recognize the value. Yet every time the word 'audit' is used in this town, people come unglued. I don't get it (or maybe I do). If I were the mayor of a town filled with scandals that could cost me my job, I would want to take the lead and clear the matter as soon as possible. But he fumbles that opportunity every time it is presented, Even a casual observer of the news realizes that just the appearance of a government cover-up will raise plenty of questions from people who are entitled to know the answers - truthfully and promptly. When those answers aren't provided, the people may decide to elect a new sherriff to clean-up the town. Thanks, to all of you for taking up the cause, and a sincere thank you to Maureen Saunders for being the point person in this effort and taking the abuse directed toward you.
Jim Pozzo May 11, 2013 at 05:26 AM
Tim, the citizens' interests are still at the bottom of the list according to the city's responses to the audit. The State Auditor cited many instances where the city violated its own ordinances, state laws and federal laws by its actions. But then the city says it does not have to seek bids for legal services because state law does not require it, even though it would the best use of city funds to seek competitive bids. Why would the city not agree to obtain bids for legal services? It just doesn't make sense.
Phil Williams May 11, 2013 at 05:42 AM
Can I start my own petition to impeach an alderperson?
Kay Scott-Boyd May 28, 2013 at 08:55 PM
One thing that I found very concerning was that we have "new" hires who are getting money for "car allowances" that should be tied to their jobs but obviously is not since it is a flat monthly amount.. At the meeting explaining mismanagement even the auditor made light of the fact as to how that was a really high "allowance". These are the things that we need to cancel or hire new people so that those kinds of inappropriate allowances do not keep going. The 2 that were talked about come to around $1000 per month. I think $12 grand a year that could easily be put back into our reserves. These are the things that should be found and only with a forensic audit would find them. If just one thing like that was found by one year of audit, what would a longer term audit find?

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