WELLSTON, Mo. (KMOX) – A citizen-requested audit of the city of Wellston uncovered a number of serious, deep-seated problems with the way their government operates.
Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway delivered her findings before city officials and interested residents at Wellston City Hall Wednesday.
“The Wellston city government is failing its citizens,” Galloway says. “The city’s financial condition has drastically declined, and a series of missteps, miscalculations, and inappropriate activities continue to lead the city down a path of further financial ruin.”
Galloway said her deep dive into Wellston’s books showed that financial records are both incomplete and inaccurate – making it difficult for council members to adequately monitor the city’s finances or for auditors to determine the true extent of the city’s financial problems.
The auditor’s report also suggested that the city’s financial troubles have been compounded by “inappropriate activities” leading to lawsuits.
For example, the city was ordered to pay almost $80,000 in settlement costs after a number of incidents – including an assault on a citizen by a council member as well as a class action lawsuit over illegal fees charged by the municipal court.
But that wasn’t all Galloway uncovered.
“The city does not prepare budgets for city funds, doesn’t prepare or publish legally-required financial statements, and does not file annual financial reports,” Galloway says.
Galloway also raised concerns with the city’s adherence, or lack thereof, to the Sunshine Law. She says the city doesn’t respond to Sunshine Law requests within the timeframe required by law.
This led to the city being ordered to pay $6,300 in 2015 for failing to turn over police records as part of a Sunshine Law request.
Another part of the audit centered directly on the actions of Mayor Nathaniel Griffin.
“In one year he purchased nearly 1,600 gallons of gas, costing taxpayers $2,800,” Galloway says. “This averages out to an estimated 31,000 miles driven in a city that spans less than one square mile.”
While filling his personal vehicle at St. Louis County pumps, she said, the mayor billed the fuel to the city.
Griffin, who was in the audience, was ready with a response to that claim.
“I do drive a personal vehicle, but I’m also filling up code enforcement, inspector, as well as public works,” he told KMOX News. “So those vehicles are also being fueled on my key.”
Griffin promised to work hard to comply with the auditor’s findings, suggesting that some improvements are already being made.
Former council member Betty Frye gasped a number of times as Auditor Galloway announced her findings. She’s leery of City Hall’s promises to straighten up and fly right from now on.
“Look what you’re dealing with,” Fyre says. “It’s not going to do any good, because [city officials] aren’t going to cut their salaries, they don’t understand what they’re doing, so how can it get any better?”
The city was assigned an overall performance rating of “poor,” which means Auditor Galloway will return in about six months for a follow-up review.
For the complete copy of the audit report, click here.