By Johnny Kampis | Missouri Watchdog
ST. LOUIS – Thousands of dollars are sitting in Pulaski County Sheriff J.B. King‘s safe, but who it belongs to is anyone’s guess.
A report released Monday by Missouri Auditor Thomas Schweich showed that King has not complied with several recommendations made in a November audit to shore up accounting deficiencies that resulted in unclaimed and missing funds. The money is given to inmates by their families and deposited into accounts for such extras as vending machine snacks and prepaid telephone cards.
Although the sheriff’s office demonstrates poor accounting practices, it will be up to lawmakers to clamp down on King and other officials in similar situations because the auditor only does one follow-up with agencies that get poor marks in initial audits.
“We’re out of it at this point,” spokesman Spence Jackson said. “At this point it’s up to the voters and the representative government to decide how it moves forward.”
King, who was elected in 2004, announced last year he would not seek a third term in office.
King did not return three calls from Missouri Watchdog on Monday.
“Certainly this could be used as a roadmap for the next sheriff so he doesn’t fall into the same pitfalls as this one has,” Jackson said.
The initial audit found that an inactive bank account held $2,560 in inmate funds, with no clear indication to whom the money belonged. The office has not used the account in three years.
Schweich told the sheriff to investigate the unidentified balances and try to find out who should receive the money.
But King has yet to do that, the follow-up found.
King told representatives from Schweich’s office upon their second visit in April that he would have a clerk attempt to locate former inmates. If that is unsuccessful, the money would be sent to the state’s Unclaimed Property Fund in accordance with state law and the account closed.
Since 2010, King held inmate money in his vault, but the new method has proven far from foolproof. The auditor’s office found that cash in the vault was $200 below the balances recorded on the inmate account logs.
Schweich’s staff discovered that money was not always recorded properly and that inmates did not always sign for the cash when they made withdrawals from their accounts. Auditors recommended the office improve its accounting procedures.
While King told auditors in April that jail staff has been instructed to ensure all funds going in and out are recorded properly, inmates still are not required to sign receipts or the jail log documenting the purchase of prepaid telephone cards.
King also told Schweich’s staff that six months after the initial audit he has not performed a supervisory review to ensure the new procedures are properly followed.