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State audit finds a flood of financial issues in Brentwood

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 8, 2013 - Brentwood officials got bad news Tuesday from Missouri state Auditor Tom Schweich, but it was expected.

The city's government received a “poor’’ rating from Schweich and his auditing team, which found a plethora of financial problems, ranging from a lack of documents to verify the city's bid process for the new firehouse construction to failing for the last 15 years to solicit bids for ambulance billing services.

The audit, released Tuesday night, also showed that the city had a pattern of paying bills late, thus incurring late fees, and failures to document payroll and overtime payments for firefighters and other city employees.

Brentwood officials also had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in 2009 for a loan and legal fees after failing to detect coding errors for local merchants’ sales tax collections that had cost the city about $460,000 in sales tax revenue when the errors were discovered.

Although the audit was particularly critical of the city’s financial management, Schweich did note in his presentation that city officials appeared to be making sincere efforts to rectify many of the problems.

Schweich’s staff had conducted the audit of the city’s governmental operations at the request of city residents, who had formally requested the probe by submitting a petition signed by 869 of the city’s roughly 8,000 residents.

The request was made after the city's then-longtime city administrator, Christopher Seemayer, had pleaded guilty in 2011 to embezzling city money.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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