No criminal activity found in public works dept.
December 22, 2013
The Joplin Police Department closed their investigation recently into the building and code enforcement divisions of the Joplin Public Works Department. The investigation was ordered in July by City Manager Mark Rohr to determine whether there was any criminal wrongdoing surrounding approximately $150,000 in uncollected or undeposited fees within these divisions, dating back to 1999.

The investigation concludes that there is no evidence to suggest any criminal activity took place in the public works department. According to the report, there is no evidence of theft or missing money, and it reaffirms that the initial findings from the city of uncollected and undeposited fees are accurate.

The concerns regarding the building and code enforcement divisions were brought to light after an analysis was conducted by the city’s software provider to determine whether the city was utilizing the system to its fullest capacity. During this analysis, “open fees” reports were run that revealed approximately $110,000 in open code enforcement fees, and $43,000 in uncollected building permit fees.

In June, staff from human resources and the city manager’s office, assisted by the finance department, began interviewing supervisory personnel in public works regarding the uncollected fees and noted several inefficiencies in the processes used to record and handle payments/collections.

Process and personnel changes within the department took place as a result of these interviews, which also led to the eventual reorganization of the public works department. In July, $11,968 in additional unprocessed payments dating from 2006 to 2011, for building and sign permits and storm water fees were discovered in the office of the former division supervisor.

Currently, the city has implemented several changes to ensure that permit applications and fees are billed and collected in a proper and timely manner. Monies collected in public works are now being turned over to the finance department on a daily basis, and the finance department is conducting an internal audit on the processes of all departments city-wide that deal with or handle monetary transactions to ensure that proper procedures are in place.

The city is advertising for a chief building official to oversee the day-to-day operation of the building division, and the neighborhood improvement division (previously code enforcement) is now under the supervision of the assistant city manager.

Looking forward, long-term improvements and/or changes to policies and procedures that improve the city’s delivery of service to the public will be reviewed and implemented accordingly, to assure residents that proper procedures are in place to safeguard taxpayer resources. These processes will be monitored on an ongoing basis into the future.

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