Government & Politics

Former Missouri public safety director abused state contracting process, audit says

Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway
Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway The Star

The director of Missouri’s Department of Public Safety under former Gov. Eric Greitens abused the state’s contracting process to award an organization that he was previously affiliated with, according to a state audit released Wednesday.

The audit also found that Charles “Drew” Juden, who served as director from the beginning of 2017 to August of last year, did not claim leave when taking personal trips to Florida to watch the Daytona 500.

Before Juden became director, the Missouri Highway Patrol managed fingerprinting technology for local law enforcement agencies at no cost to the state. After he took over, the Missouri Police Chiefs Charitable Foundation was selected to manage the $1.25 million technology contract, at a cost of $58,000.

The audit said the change was made after the department submitted false information to the Office of Administration, which handles the procurement process.

Prior to his appointment, Juden was the foundation’s chairman, which the audit said posed a “conflict of interest.”

“Missourians should have confidence their tax dollars are being used appropriately and that contracts are awarded in a way that gets the very best return on their investment,” State Auditor Nicole Galloway said in a statement. “No one should think they are above those rules. That’s why it’s so troubling that this audit uncovered deliberate actions to try to sidestep these policies.”

Ahead of the audit’s release, Juden, who was previously the Sikeston public safety director, approached a Cape Girardeau TV station with the draft audit earlier in the month, calling it a “targeted attack” on his reputation.

“I distanced myself from that whole process,” Juden told the station of the police chiefs foundation contract. He added that staff handled the contract.

The audit was requested by Gov. Mike Parson in November. It was prompted by an internal review conducted last year by the department’s current director, Sandra Karsten, after she was appointed to the position by Parson.

“The internal review raised concerns about questionable use of taxpayer dollars,” Parson stated in a November letter to Galloway. “These concerns warranted (Karsten’s) recommendation that the State Auditor conduct an independent review of DPS at the administrative level.”

The audit found that DPS applied to have the police chiefs foundation designated as the only possible entity that could manage the technology contract, citing a legislative appropriation change as justification.

The DPS director’s office told the Office of Administration that the money appropriated by the legislature for information technology and criminal services was strictly a “local initiative,” to be administered at the local law enforcement level, and omitted that the money was also meant for the Missouri Highway Patrol. The DPS director’s office also said that in the past the foundation had been paid 5 percent to manage contracts, which the audit found it hadn’t.

The audit said DPS gave the $1.25 million to the police chiefs foundation without a written contract and months before the devices were delivered to law enforcement agencies.

“Allowing the MPCCF to maintain the $1.25 million in its bank accounts for approximately 8 months provided an unnecessary benefit to the organization of potential interest earned or improved cash flows,” the audit stated.

By paying the money early, the state lost out on $16,000 in earned interest, according to the state treasurer.

The Highway Patrol had not been made aware that the Department of Public Safety had requested the police chiefs foundation take over the fingerprinting technology contract management.

Previously, the legislature had directly appropriated the money to the Highway Patrol. The legislature changed control of the money to the DPS director’s office at the request of the police foundation and its lobbyist during an appropriations subcommittee meeting, according to subcommittee head, state Rep. Kathy Conway, R-St. Charles.

The audit also found Juden claimed to be working for 15 days on which it appeared he had taken personal trips out of the state, but did not claim any annual leave until the end of his tenure. After he was ousted by Parson, Juden was paid $6,864 for the remaining 115 hours of annual leave.

Juden told auditors that as long as he had access to email or phone, he considered himself to be working.

Upon reviewing vehicle usage of directors between 2013 and the present day, the auditor also found that Juden used his state vehicle 44 percent more on average. He did not keep odometer readings or keep records of his destinations, as required.

In response to the audit findings, Karsten, who previously served as head of the Highway Patrol, wrote that she agreed with all of Galloway’s recommendations of ensuring accurate information and documentation and has already taken the necessary steps to implement them.

“We appreciate the new leadership at the Department of Public Safety under Director Karsten, who has already taken steps to address the concerns referenced in the audit,” Steele Shippy, the governor’s communications director, said in a statement.

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Crystal Thomas covers Missouri politics for The Kansas City Star. An Illinois native and a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, she has experience covering state and local government.