Ferrelview state audit reveals issues with court

Many residents of Ferrelview will not be at all surprised to learn that the state audit of the village’s municipal court has already uncovered problems, with the complete village audit still under way.

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway released an audit of the village’s municipal court on Monday, Jan. 29. The audit was initiated after citizens used the petition process to request an audit of the village, which is still ongoing. 

“Residents of Ferrelview deserve accountability and transparency in all aspects of their government,” Galloway said in a press release. “Even though the municipal court is no longer in operation, village officials have a responsibility to take corrective action to ensure the law is followed.”

As reported in The Citizen in June 2016, the village experienced a drastic increase in citations filed in its municipal court since the arrival of then-police chief Daniel Clayton in July 2015. Records obtained by The Citizen during an open records request showed not only an increase in tickets filed, but a lack of filings of excess revenues remitted to the Missouri Department of Revenue. Clayton was suspended from his position in November 2017, and faces allegations of harassment. A hearing on Clayton’s peace officer license will be held before the Missouri Public Safety Commission Tuesday, Feb. 6 in Jefferson City, Mo.

Ongoing municipal court operations ceased on Aug. 1, 2017 after a vote of the board of trustees and the municipal division is currently in the process of dissolution. 

State law requires municipalities to calculate the percentage of their general operating revenue received from fines, bond forfeitures and court costs for municipal ordinance violations and minor traffic violations. If that percentage is more than 20 percent, the excess revenue must be submitted to the Department of Revenue.

The audit found that the village failed to maintain adequate support for the calculations it used to determine how much money it owed to the department. The calculation for 2016 showed the percentage of general operating revenue from those court collections was 43 percent, resulting in approximately $30,000 due to the department. Village officials said the amounts used in the calculations may not be accurate.

The village has not remitted excess revenues for 2016. In addition, no calculation was made for 2013 to 2015 to determine if excess revenues were owed to the state for those years.

Galloway’s report — which is available online at auditor.mo.gov — recommends that village officials recalculate excess revenues for 2016 and pay that amount to the DOR. The report also recommends that, where appropriate, calculations for past years should be prepared and any excess revenues sent to the state.

Even though the municipal court is no longer collecting fines and court costs nor receiving bond monies, there were still balances in bank accounts set up for those functions. The audit recommends that village officials review the balances and liabilities of those bank accounts for appropriate disposition. Also, court and village personnel did not adequately segregate tasks, perform reviews and approvals, or properly track tickets issued.

The petition audit of Ferrelview municipal government operations is still underway. The village has been in the local headlines for the last two years, since citizens concerned about increased ticketing under Clayton, as well as perceived corruption in the village’s management, launched the petition audit in 2016. Now, Theresa Wilson, the organizer of the petition audit effort, sits on the board of trustees.

In the April 2017 election, then-board chair Steven Carr was ousted by Theresa and her husband Russell Wilson. Carr’s wife, Diedre Carr, still serves on the board.

Theresa Wilson now serves as board chair and has presided over months of contentious meetings, which in November ended in the suspension of Clayton and the resignation of the city attorney Scott Campbell.

With no municipal police force — and amid concerns about safety during board meetings — deputies from the Platte County Sheriff’s Office have been forced to wand down attendees and referee outbursts from both the audience and members of the board.

Currently, the village is operating with no approved budget but has a tentative budget set to be presented by treasurer Mickey Vulgamott in February.