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Auditor finds fault in State Water Patrol's accountability standards

October 15, 2001
By: Julian Pecquet
State Capital Bureau
Links: www.auditor.state.mo.us

JEFFERSON CITY - The Department of Safety's State Water Patrol was faulted for poor accountability standards in a state audit released Thursday.

The audit pointed at underuse of the patrol's land vehicles and boats, lack of accountability for violation tickets and for funds used in undercover drug buying operations.

The audit also concluded that there were insufficient records to justify the annual leave benefits claimed by the former Water Patrol commissioner, Col. Larry Whitten, when he retired last December.

"The prior commissioner did not complete time sheets nor did the MSWP maintain any other record to document leave earned or taken," the auditor's office reported.

Whitten, who was commissioner for seven years, received a $10,004 payment for 288 hours of annual leave in addition to his regular salary, and was credited with 823 hours of unused sick leave for the calculation of his retirement benefit.

"We could not determine if the additional payment was justified," said the audit.

The audit also criticized the patrol for having more equipment than necessary and assigning official vehicles to administrative personnel.

"The MSWP has more vehicles and boats than employees," the auditor's office reported.

But the Water Patrol argued that it must also conduct rescue and recovery operations during floods in addition to regular duties of law enforcement and maintenance of boating safety.

"Although on paper it may appear as though the patrol has a large number of boats that are not used for routine patrol, it is very important to emphasize we play a very important part in disaster preparations," the agency responded.

Furthermore, the Water Patrol said that it had just received new replacement equipment when the audit was performed, which skewed the audit's results.

"We were in the process of giving them out to the people in the field and taking theirs back in for surplus," said Sgt. Paul Kennedy, the Water Patrol spokesman.

The audit was also critical of poor accountability standards used in processing the tickets which are issued for violations on the state's waterways.

"There were several tickets that could not be accounted for by the MSWP," the audit said.

The patrol's efforts to carry out its law enforcement mission are further stifled by budgetary limitations.

"The MSWP does not have enough equipment to adequately enforce excessive noise regulations regarding recreational motorboats," said the audit.

And the audit also criticized poor accountability in the use of special funds, known as drug buy monies, which permit agents to purchase illegal substances in order to infiltrate drug rings.

"Reviews of drug buy monies held by the officers were not performed. Without surprise reviews, the risk of loss, misuse, or theft of the money increases," said the audit.

"The Water Patrol will have some explaining to do when they come up before the legislature next Spring," said Glenn Campbell, the state auditor's director of public affairs.