Missouri

Missouri Auditor: Ex-police chief, lieutenant brother stole thousands from taxpayers

Clay County citizens hand over 9,000 petition signatures to state auditor

Citizens of Clay County have collected more than 9,000 signatures in a petition to have the county government audited. After the signatures are verified, State Auditor Nicole Galloway's office can begin its performance audit.
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Citizens of Clay County have collected more than 9,000 signatures in a petition to have the county government audited. After the signatures are verified, State Auditor Nicole Galloway's office can begin its performance audit.

A former police chief in a small southwest Missouri town and his brother, a former lieutenant hired at his request, face criminal charges that they stole thousands of dollars from taxpayers, according to a citizen-requested audit that detailed the city’s problems.

Joshua Bruce, the former chief of the town of Miller in Lawrence County, faces multiple counts of receiving stolen property while his brother, Randall Bruce, faces one charge.

The brothers, both of whom were fired from the police department in May 2017 for submitting false timesheets, are expected to stand trial separately within the next two months.

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway’s report on the small town and the spending of its former police chief comes as her office continues to conduct a citizen-requested audit of Clay County’s financial records.

The report on Miller details improper payroll checks that totaled more than $24,000 to Randall Bruce and nearly $13,000 paid to the former chief in unsupported mileage reimbursements.

It also showed more than $1,700 in improper overtime payments to the chief, about $3,500 in questionable fuel purchases and more than $1,800 in personal items or services purchased on city credit cards. Some of those purchases, according to the report, included hardware supplies, track accessories and items from iTunes.

The chief made purchases through the State Agency for Surplus Property and the Missouri Department of Public Safety that were missing or found at his home, such as computers and rifleman sets, according to the report. The former chief also made unauthorized cash purchases of two rifles, one of which was found at his home and another that is still missing, Galloway said.

In a statement Tuesday, Galloway said the brothers deliberately took advantage of the city of about 700 people.

“They must be held to account,” Galloway said.

The charges filed in 2017 against Joshua Bruce indicated he stole more than $27,000 from the city in payroll, donation money and equipment. He was fired as the town’s chief for approving time sheets for his brother when he was not actually on duty.

The Missouri Highway Patrol said troopers found seized property, such as firearms, at the chief’s home.

Randall Bruce was hired by Miller police at the request of his brother, according to the report. While he was employed in Miller, Bruce also served as the police chief in Clever, a town of about 2,000 in Christian County.

The state auditor’s office said it also found numerous issues with other aspects of the city including “significant weaknesses” in its utility operations and financial condition. The audit recommended increased oversight of its accounting and budgeting.

Galloway’s audit in Clay County, at the request of citizens, continues. That audit began in December after a citizen’s group submitted a petition with more than 9,000 signatures asking Galloway to examine the county’s financial records.

A lawsuit filed by the county against the auditor is pending. A judge last month rejected an attempt by the Clay County Commission to stop Galloway’s audit.

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Luke Nozicka covers local crime and federal courts for The Kansas City Star. Before joining The Star, he covered breaking news and courts for The Des Moines Register.
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