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Center, Missouri officials say they’re increasing accountability after audit

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More than $300,000 in taxpayer dollars stolen: that's what Missouri state auditor Nicole Galloway said happened in Center Missouri over the course of several years, she said former city clerk Tracy Ray spent tax payer dollars on everything from her bills to trips to Las Vegas.

Center city officials said they're meeting with residents to answer questions about the audit as well as the changes they're making to make sure something like this doesn't happen again.

"I trusted her, I thought that whatever she told me was correct, come to find out it wasn't, and she wasn't always telling me the truth and she sure wasn't showing us or the council all the correct figures at every city council meeting," said Center, Missouri, Mayor Dennis McMillen.

He said he didn't believe it at first when he got the call that the city hadn't submitted financial records in years.

McMillen said before, former city clerk Tracy Ray was the only employee at city hall, and much of what went on there wasn't being recorded, both things he said have changed after the audit.

"We've installed a time clock and we don't sign any of the checks, two people gotta sign them and we're making sure we have a receipt that matches every check," said McMillen.

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway said Ray spent taxpayer money on shopping, credit card bills, health insurance and vacations.

The audit also found 7,000 dollars still unaccounted for at this time.

She said regaining the taxpayers' trust will take real change from city officials on how things are handled.

But, Galloway said alderman made the right decision to have the city audited.

"The other thing though is the former clerk falsified records and did provide incorrect information to the board. I do give the board credit because as soon as they found this questionable activity they did take action, they didn't sit on it," said Galloway.

Mayor McMillen said even with two new employees in place, city officials still need to pay closer attention to what's going on.

"We still need to keep an eye on them, if someone wants to take money they'll find a way."

Center city officials are encouraging residents to reach out to city hall any time to have questions you may have answered.

Galloway said she's aware Ray is currently under investigation with the attorney general's office and the Missouri State Highway Patrol from a 2019 incident when she shot at police.

She said they are sensitive to that situation and will work with those agencies regarding that investigation.

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Frank Healy

Multimedia Journalist at WGEM

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