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State auditors meet with city officials and residents in Center, Missouri as audit begins

The city of Center, Missouri is under the microscope as the state begins its audit of the city.

Auditors met with the city at a city council meeting Wednesday. This audit comes after a complaint to the state auditor’s Whistleblower Hotline in July about questionable financial activity.

“We look at written policies and procedures,” said Travis Owens with the auditor’s office. “We look heavily at financial records, bank records, invoices, checks, other pertinent documents. Interviewing personnel with the city as well as external parties.”

The auditors said they typically have three goals which focus on evaluating how the city conducted its business. But they say they added a fourth goal for this audit because of the nature of the allegations that led to it. That goal is to determine the extent of monies misappropriated from the city.

Residents packed the town hall to hear what those auditors had to say.

“I worry about the future of Center,” said resident Shannon Miller. “I know that Center is going to survive and continue to thrive but it’s how are we going to get past this struggle we are going through right now as far as financial? This is a pretty big blow to this small community.”

Some Residents recorded the meeting on their phones. Miller was one of those who did.

Residents said they’re anxious to see what may have been covered up over the years.

“I don’t know how much money we’re missing but that’s a problem for a lot of communities especially one this small because there are a lot of improvements we want to make to the city like water and sewer but now those are in question.,” said Miller.

Alderwoman Cristy Browning says she’s eager to see what the state finds out.

“We are glad that the state is here. There are a lot questions that we need answered. Now it’s just a waiting game and we’re going to find out what’s going on,” said Browning.

Those auditors estimate the audit will take up to six months to complete but a final report won’t come out until two to three months after that so it could be close to a year before this issue is resolved.

The State Auditor’s office was contacted through the Whistleblower Hotline about concerns related to the city finances under the former clerk Tracy Ray. Then, City officials formally requested an audit on July 3. Investigators with the Auditor’s Public Corruption and Fraud Division conducted an investigation and found those concerns to be credible.

Brett Knese

Multi-Media Journalist at WGEM News.

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