A look at some of Missouri Auditor Schweich's top findings

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Posted: Feb 27, 2015 7:16 PM
A look at some of Missouri Auditor Schweich's top findings

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Tom Schweich released about 570 audits during his roughly four years as Missouri state auditor, which ended Thursday when he shot himself in what police describe as an apparent suicide. Those audits examined local school districts, municipal courts, state agencies and the offices of other statewide elected officials, among others.

By Schweich's tally, his audits helped expose more than 30 government officials who allegedly stole taxpayer money. They also pointed out areas of potential savings in state government and highlighted alleged violations of state laws.

Here's a look at some of Schweich's highlights from the past year:

ST. JOSEPH SCHOOLS

On Feb 17, Schweich released an audit revealing that the St. Joseph School District had handed out at least $25 million in unapproved stipends to administrators in the last eight years. The audit listed 17 areas of concern, leading to the first "poor" ranking given to a Missouri school district by Schweich since 2011. The school board later voted to begin terminating the superintendent's contract.

EARLY CHILDHOOD

On Feb. 3, a Schweich audit found that Missouri had paid $1.5 million from an early childhood education and development fund for services that were never provided. He gave the fund's oversight a poor rating, the lowest possible on his scale.

FERGUSON FOLLOWUP

Schweich announced on Oct. 9 that his office would be auditing 10 municipal courts, including one in Ferguson, to see whether they were violating a state law capping the amount of revenues they can get from traffic tickets. The initiative was part of the response to the civil unrest following the fatal shooting for 18-year-old Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer. Some protesters had complained that residents in the predominantly black community were frequently stopped by the largely white police force.

SUNSHINE LAW

In an Oct. 7 report, Schweich said too many public entities had been violating Missouri's open-government laws by meeting in closed sessions without good reason or by discussing things behind closed doors that they shouldn't have. He said about 15 percent of the nearly 300 audits he conducted over the previous two years found some sort of violation of the Sunshine Law. That was an improvement from 2010-2011, but still not good enough, he said.

PUBLIC PENSIONS

Schweich released a wide-ranging report on Sept. 30 of 89 public pension systems that pay defined benefits to 546,000 people who worked for state or local governments. Though Missouri's retirement plans were generally in better financial shape than those nationally, Schweich placed 15 of the pension programs on an auditor's "watch list" because of their finances.

GOVERNOR'S BUDGET

On Sept. 8, the Republican auditor released a report accusing Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon of overstepping his constitutional powers by making millions of dollars of spending cuts in the state's 2012 budget. Schweich said "it's crystal clear under the Missouri Constitution that this was an illegal withholding" of money by Nixon. The governor's office countered that Schweich's interpretation was inaccurate. The spat was an encore of a court battle between the two officeholders that already had gone all the way to the state Supreme Court.

JOPLIN TORNADO

Schweich announced on June 16 that his office would audit the Joplin School District at the request of the school's superintendent. The school district had received an influx of donations after a deadly 2011 tornado destroyed the high school and several other district buildings. Schweich had been preparing to personally deliver that audit next Tuesday in Joplin. His office plans to release the audit as scheduled.

TAX CREDITS

In a series of audits last April and March, Schweich questioned the efficiency of some of the state's largest tax credit programs for developers of historic buildings, low-income housing and old contaminated business sites. He suggested ways they could be changed to save the state money. But lawmakers have yet to act on those recommendations.