Police Investigate Finances of County Official Who Took His Own Life
CLAYTON, MO–(KMOX)–He lived in $1.4 million Webster Groves mansion at the corner of Gray and McDonald with a tennis court and swimming pool out back.
Edward Mueth was billed $21,000 a year in property taxes — a hefty sum for a man making $87,000 as the Director of Executive Administration for the County Health Department. Now, a few days after his apparent suicide, police are investigating whether Mueth was misappropriating money from the county.
“It’s pretty obvious based on the request that we do an investigation, that the (Dooley) Administration feels there’s been a misappropriation of county funds,” said Police Chief Tim Fitch.
Mueth, 39, was scheduled to face questions from higher-ups about financial irregularities within the department, when police say he shot and killed himself Thursday night in the 8800 block of Big Bend on a parking lot near the old Webster Groves train station. A note was left behind, but police have not revealed its contents.
This week, county police detectives are working with the county counselor’s office to determine the amount of money that may have been taken, Fitch said.
“That remains to be seen,” said Fitch, “Initially we were told it may be in the millions of dollars that were misappropriated. What we have to find out is if that’s true. That came from the county’s Chief Operating Officer Gary Earls who called Friday and asked for the investigation.”
So, far detectives are investigating reports that Mueth had set up a company that sent the health department invoices that he himself would approve, possibly over several years, Fitch said.
“We were told that he had some sort of business that he had set up, and was using this business to generate invoices to the county, then approving the payments himself,” Fitch said.
Police are also trying to determine if Mueth had any accomplices.
“What we want to find out is whether others were involved,” Fitch said, “because if this individual was the only one involved and he’s deceased, there’s not a criminal case that you would work.”
If others are involved, Fitch says the matter will be turned over to the FBI.
The FBI is already investigating allegations of wrongdoing with a contract at the St. Louis County Police Department. That investigation began over the summer at the request of Fitch.
Meanwhile, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley’s office is taking a wait-and-see approach to the size of the scandal.
“We do know that this is an issue confined to one line item in the budget,” said Dooley’s spokeswoman Pat Washington, “We do know that there were some irregularities in some invoices. There’s nothing rampant throughout the county health department where millions of dollars are missing.”