Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

City to Try to Recoup Money Taken by Clerks Traffic Bureau Revelations Spur Bosley, Jones

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

City to Try to Recoup Money Taken by Clerks Traffic Bureau Revelations Spur Bosley, Jones

Article excerpt

The mayor and the comptroller, responding to Post-Dispatch disclosures - and public outrage - say they will do whatever it takes to try to recover money stolen in the city's largest theft in modern times.

The newspaper reported Sunday that, three years after the arrest of clerks who embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from city traffic fines, St. Louis officials hadn't even filed an insurance claim to get back the money.

Readers were outraged. "Our telephone lines just lit up" at City Hall, said Pat Washington, press secretary for Mayor Freeman Bosley Jr.

State Auditor Margaret Kelly said she was outraged, too.

"By not attempting to recoup stolen public moneys, the message" city officials sent was: " `Charge it to the taxpayers,' " Kelly said.

On Tuesday, amid an outbreak of fingerpointing at City Hall, a frustrated Bosley said he was acting.

He announced that he was ordering city attorneys to try to get the money from the insurance company. "If we can't get the money from the bonding company, we may sue the individuals involved in the scheme," Bosley said.

Three years ago, city officials put the theft at $250,000 to $300,000. Recently, police said the thefts were closer to $1 million or $2 million.

What took the city so long, and who was to blame for the three-year delay in seeking restitution? FINGERPOINTING

City attorneys blamed the administration of former Mayor Vincent C. Schoemehl Jr., Washington said.

Comptroller Virvus Jones blamed city attorneys for failing to sue the thieves or the insurance company.

Jones also blamed Joe Roddy, the former city clerk who was in charge of the employees who stole the money in the traffic violations bureau.

"He headed that office and he didn't even know the city had an insurance policy," Jones said.

Roddy said last week that the city didn't file an insurance claim because it was self-insured.

It wasn't. Although it has paid more than $3,700 for theft insurance on traffic bureau clerks since 1987, the city never has used its insurance policy.

Other officials - including some in the mayor's office - think the comptroller's office dropped the ball by not finding out how much money was stolen, Washington said. …

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