St. Louis County Needs to Get the Auditor’s Office in Order
I was an aide at the St. Louis County Council in 2003 when the council appointed Mark Burchyett as the county auditor. Mr. Burchyett was a highly qualified, experienced government and business auditor before coming to St. Louis County. Before him, the county auditor’s office had been, in the words (spoken to me) of a Post-Dispatch reporter who shall remain nameless, “A dumping ground for political hacks.”
Fast forward a decade or so, and the county has unfortunately appeared to have returned to those undistinguished roots. Several years ago, the council appointed an individual to the auditor position who had essentially no experience in large-scale government auditing functions. Over the past several years, the inability to actually do such audits has resulted in an auditor’s office almost without audits. This is not an exaggeration. It just takes a moment to compare the output of the St. Louis and St. Charles county auditor’s offices to see the striking difference. One has some very short reports over the past several years. The other (St. Charles) has real audits.
In fact, if you go to the two pages that list St. Louis County audits and reports, there is exactly one (ONE!) released financial document in all of 2020 and 2021, and that document is one (ONE!) page long.
This county auditor oversees a very small staff of just 2 or 3 people The auditor is not just overseeing audits and reports; he has to actually do the work himself. Members of the St. Louis County Council have recently asked for a state audit of county funds in light of the fact that the county auditor has not performed this vital task. The county council is also considering instituting tighter qualifications for the position.
With the enormous amount of money coming into St. Louis County over the past year from federal aid, the office of the county auditor is more important than ever. The county needs a qualified, independent auditor’s office to provide oversight on the spending. (The auditor’s office is one of two positions in St. Louis County government that reports to the council, not the county executive.)
Loyalty is a wonderful thing and calling for people to be replaced is not something anyone should ever be cavalier about, but it is well past time for St. Louis County to have an auditor who will get the job done.