Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tarnished Legacy Still Haunts St. Louis Police, Former Chief Singled Out in Audit

Posted By on Tue, Nov 10, 2009 at 1:00 PM

  • www.im4mokwa.com
  • Joe Mokwa
State Auditor Susan Montee released this morning the findings of a much-anticipated financial review of the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners.

The audit is the first look into the finances of the board since former police chief Joe Mokwa stepped down last year in the wake of a scandal involving the department's towing contract with a third-party company.

As expected, the audit found that S and H Towing underpaid the police department $453,000 in fees for its contract with the police force. A federal investigation into that matter continues. 

More tantalizing than the towing business, perhaps, are the revelations in the audit of how Mokwa and others manipulated department policy to fund exotic trips, make questionable purchases, treat themselves to enhanced retirement benefits and leave the force with treasure.

The audit notes that...
  • Police debit cards were used to purchase nearly $3,000 worth of clothing, meals and tickets to entertainment venues that appeared to be "personal in nature" with the majority of those purchases made by Mokwa;
  • The department accepted season tickets from the Cardinals in 2008 worth $19,000, which could violate state law. (Police chief Dan Isom -- sworn into office last fall -- has since suggested that sports teams pay the department for police services on game days.);
  • Department practices allowed terminated or retired employees to accrue unreasonable vacation and sick leave benefits during their final month of employment. For example, if the last day of service was the first day of the month, the employee accrued an entire month of leave, and that leave was paid out as unused leave upon termination or retirement;
  • Several employees incurred travel expenses that "did not seem reasonable or necessary" such as Mokwa's 15-day, $2,000 trip to Australia to attend a conference on "Pacific Coast Terrorism"
  • Mokwa kept a $6,000 gold police badge upon his retirement -- a custom within the department that has since been abolished.  
The audit also rebuked the department for the way it handles seized assets and money and said that police could act faster in returning items to their rightful owners.

The police board vowed to address all issues raised in the audit. Click here to view the audit in its entirety.

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