JEFFERSON CITY (Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2012) — State Auditor Tom Schweich today released the audit of the Monarch Fire Protection District, located in St. Louis County, at a public meeting in Chesterfield, Missouri.
In the areas audited, the overall performance of this entity was Fair. It is the position of the State Auditor’s office that some retirement incentives paid to employees as part of an early retirement package are a violation of the Missouri Constitution.
The board approved a retirement incentive package, limited to the first seven employees to sign up, which provided additional compensation based upon years of service, extra leave accumulation, and additional health benefits which alone could cost the district $280,000 over the next five years.
The district has not obtained proposals or written contracts for some legal services, making it difficult to ensure it is getting the best value and allowing the pension attorney to overcharge the district by approximately $4,300. The district spent over $212,000 on legal services during 2010.
The district spent approximately $26,000 for a service awards banquet in September 2011,which may not have been an appropriate use of district funds.
The district did not document the reasons or the votes regarding meeting closure for 40 meetings between January 2010 and September 2011, as required by state law. On some occasions, the board went directly into closed session without starting an open sessions. The closed meeting minutes did not sufficiently demonstrate issues discussed were allowable under the Sunshine Law. Some of the questionable topics include: how to respond to inquiries regarding the state audit, advertisement of the fire chief position, discussion of a search firm for the fire chief position, the hiring process for firefighters, and an ethics resolution.
The district did not include 18 senior and administrative positions in the 2008 salary survey of firefighters and emergency medical technicians, and it is unclear whether the salaries of these positions are in line with similar districts.
The controller did not always perform bank reconciliations promptly and did not adequately investigate and resolve differences discovered. A $266,000 discrepancy was identified but not investigated until audit staff made inquiries. Although most of the discrepancy was attributed to a system conversion, a $2,200 variance remains unexplained.
The district needs to improve procedures and records for district property to protect assets from theft or misuse the district does not regularly conduct an annual physical inventory of property and does not require written board authorization for asset disposal. In addition, the district lacks effective monitoring procedures for fuel and vehicle use. To view the complete report, Citizens Summary and audit rating scale, visit http://www.auditor.mo.gov/press/2012-08.htm.