Highway Department Audit Finds No Corruption, Thefts but Political Wrangling from '94 Campaign Goes On
Roy Malone Of the Post-Dispatch, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
A long-awaited state audit of the Jefferson County Highway Department has found no corruption or thefts as Jon Selsor charged in his campaign for presiding commissioner last fall.
But when State Auditor Margaret Kelly came to the courthouse in Hillsboro Thursday to release the audit, it set off another round of political bickering.
Selsor, a Republican, asked for the audit, and the two associate commissioners, both Democrats, went along. Selsor had charged during his campaign that the department was rife with fraud, theft and shoddy work and was wasting millions of dollars.
He was ready this week with a news release that said: "Audit Confirms Highway Department Budget And Procedure Problems; Selsor Vows To Rebuild The Agency."
He said, "We have a lot of work to do to clean up this mess."
But Democrats whom Selsor had attacked last fall said he was once again making false claims.
Elizabeth Faulkenberry, a Democrat who retired in January as presiding commissioner, said she was sure that no wrongdoing would be uncovered. She said of Selsor: "`What else can he do? He's got to try to make what he said look like the truth."
Kelly criticized the county for incurring $862,000 in expenses in late 1994 that were not paid until early 1995.
Her finding on how funds were spent was similar to a complaint Selsor voiced last year. She faulted the former commission for not amending the 1994 budget, which is more than $11 million yearly.
Faulkenberry said that it was common practice to do extra road work when the weather was good, as it was in the fall of 1994 - even if it meant paying for materials from anticipated revenue in succeeding months when work was slow because of harsh weather. She said that the 1993 floods had damaged many roads and that people wanted them fixed.
Kelly recommended that the county adopt long-range planning for its highway work and improve its record-keeping.
The audit cost the county $22,000.
Selsor stuck by his accusations of last fall, even though Kelly, a fellow Republican, produced no evidence to back up his allegations of potential criminal activities. He said that "it was criminal" for the former county commission to leave a deficit rather than a surplus. …