FILE - St. Louis County Executive Sam Page

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page.

(The Center Square) – The St. Louis County Council terminated its auditor on Sept. 9, a year after Missouri Democratic auditor Nicole Galloway gave the county a “poor” rating.

Mark Tucker was appointed auditor in 2017 by Democrat Sam Page, who was chairman of the council at the time, and approved by a council vote.

“I was on the county council and I was one of those votes for him,” Page said. “I supported hiring him.”

The audit was requested by the county council on May 7, 2019, four days after former Democratic county executive Steve Stenger was indicted and pleaded guilty to three federal counts of bribery and mail fraud in a pay-to-play scheme involving county operations. Stenger was succeeded by Page, who was elected to the position by a vote of the county council. Page ran for the position in 2020 and received 58% of the vote.

Galloway gave the county a “poor” rating in the 55-page document, indicating a significant improvement in operations was necessary. The audit concluded improved oversight from the county council and the auditor would have identified some portion of Stenger’s inappropriate and criminal actions.

“The council has a duty to the taxpayers of St. Louis to ensure oversight of the county executive and the administration,” the audit stated.

The audit found Tucker, whose annual salary is approximately $85,000, failed to perform audits documented in his annual audit plan. In 2018, nine areas were listed as new areas to audit, but only three of the nine were audited. Tucker stated staffing limitations resulted in only two audits conducted in 2019.

Galloway’s audit found Tucker and two other employees working in the auditor’s office had no auditing experience before being appointed or hired. Tucker said his qualifications included experience as a legislative liaison, a lobbyist related to legislative issues, account manager, account representative and a district sales manager.

The St. Louis County charter states the auditor “shall be the holder of at least a bachelor's degree in accounting, or a bachelor's degree in any discipline and a post-graduate degree in accounting, and shall have a minimum of five years of auditing experience. The county auditor shall also hold at least one of the following credentials: a certified public accountant license, a certified internal auditor credential, or a certified fraud examiner designation.”

Tucker appointed an attorney as an advisor instead of hiring an employee with auditing experience, according to the audit. Tucker hired an audit manager who had an associate’s degree in accounting and a master's of business administration. Tucker stated the manager, who previously worked in the county's fiscal management department since 2014, had expertise working with the county’s accounting system.

Galloway’s audit also found the county council didn’t fully utilize the office of the auditor. It found the auditor failed to investigate issues brought to the council's attention and procedures were circumvented.

“Hindsight is very challenging in politics or business,” Page told The Center Square on Sept. 10. “There's a lot of it. And when elected officials are talking about a lot of other elected officials, there tends to be an enormous amount of hindsight. I think it's time to move forward.”

The job position is currently posted on the county website with a starting salary range between $78,593.04 and $125,748.96.

Staff Reporter

Joe Mueller covers Missouri for The Center Square. After seven years of reporting for daily newspapers in Illinois and Missouri, he spent the next 30 years in public relations serving non-profit organizations and as a strategic communications consultant.