Missouri Sheriff’s Association blasts audit findings, auditor stands ground in backlash

By Steve Chapman

Association disputes report that states more than 1,200 Missouri registered sex offenders not accounted for
Earlier this month, the Missouri State Auditor’s Office released a report detailing an audit of certain operations of Missouri’s Sex Offender Registration Program. The audit, performed by Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway and her staff, stated that more than 1,200 registered sex offenders in Missouri are unaccounted for.
The report is under fire from the Missouri Sheriff’s Association. In a press release drafted in response to Galloway’s findings. Kevin Merritt, executive director of the MSA, issued a scathing rebuke of Galloway’s report. He accused her of publishing “false assertions” and said the “numbers and information just don’t add up.”
Merritt wrote in the press release that the MSA contacted all Missouri sheriffs, who stated they “were not contacted by the auditor or her staff to discuss the issue of registration of sex offenders” (Galloway wrote in her report that she contacted the offices of six chief law enforcement officers, i.e. sheriffs, and six prosecutors to gain an understanding of certain enforcement and prosecution issues).
Merritt also wrote past auditors, “showing respect” contacted local sheriffs for their input of the sex offender registry.
“Had this auditor done her due diligence, as did previous auditors, she would have uncovered the truth behind the numbers of offenders she alleges are unaccounted for in Missouri,” Merritt wrote.
For the purposes of auditing the registration program, Galloway also wrote in her report that she and her staff attempted to contact the MSA regarding issues noted in their report, “however, the association declined to provide any responses.” Merritt called this statement a “flat out lie.”
“Prior to the audit findings being published, I personally met with Audit Manager Joshua Allen from the auditor’s office on July 19, 2018, in my office at the Sheriffs’ Association in Jefferson City,” he wrote. “I shared factors that could influence the low totals of outstanding warrants for noncompliant sex offenders. 
We discussed certain enforcement and prosecution priorities as well as various reasons contributing to warrants not being obtained for noncompliant sex offenders.”
Merritt also criticized Galloway for not sharing a copy of her report with the MSA or any Missouri sheriffs before publishing it.
“Instead, Auditor Galloway rushed her report to the press without an opportunity for sheriffs to discuss the draft or to review and rebut the false assertions of her final report and findings,” he wrote. “This failure to communicate her findings shows callousness for law enforcement and a total misunderstanding of the basic concepts of a criminal investigation.”
In the press release, Merritt also wrote that Galloway’s numbers “simply don’t add up under review.” As an example, he stated that in Lawrence County, where Galloway’s report showed there were 14 noncompliant offenders as of May 23, 2018, 12 were accounted for.
“Three offenders are in custody of the Missouri Department of Correction; one moved out of state and is no longer required to register in Missouri; one is deceased; three have active warrants for failure to register; three have active investigations and warrants will likely be issued soon; (and) one has information sent to (the prosecuting attorney) awaiting warrant issuance.”
Merritt also stated that other counties also have similar information “that refutes the Auditor’s false claim that these offenders are simply hiding in Missouri without a trace.” He accused Galloway of misrepresenting how Missouri sheriffs and prosecutors are tracking sex offenders.
Merritt also criticized Galloway for refusing to “confirm data prior to publishing her findings.”
“Previous auditors published who they contacted in their reports,” Merritt wrote. “If the issue is really one of ensuring the sex offender law is properly enforced, it is imperative that the auditor’s office exhibit non-biased reporting in an open and transparent manner.”  He encouraged readers to contact their local sheriff’s office with questions or concerns about sex offender registration.
Lawrence County Sheriff Brad DeLay was also critical of Galloway’s findings.
“Her report was inaccurate, to say the least,” he said. “Quite frankly I believe it was politically motivated given the fact that it was released one month prior to the election.”
The auditor’s office responded to Merritt’s claims with a written statement in which it reasserted that the sheriff’s association was contacted but did not provide information requested for the audit.
“It’s unfortunate that the Sheriffs’ Association decided to weigh in this way,” the auditor’s statement said. “During the audit process, audit staff met with the head of the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association to seek information and input about issues noted in the report, but the association ultimately ‘declined’ to provide any responses to those inquiries.”
The statement also noted that the auditor’s office got its information from the MSHP.
“The Sex Offender Registry is administered by the Missouri State Highway Patrol,” per the statement. “Local law enforcement, typically the county sheriff, is responsible for providing accurate information to the sex offender registry for their jurisdiction. The information contained in the audit was obtained from the Missouri State Highway Patrol on February 14 and May 23 of this year.”
Finally, the statement cited the purpose of the registry is “so the public can rely on a single resource to access information about registered sex offenders in their community and make informed decisions for their families.”
“Based on the response from the association there are sheriffs who have information not updated or included in the publicly available tool. If this audit spurs those officials to update and provide that information to the public, then that is a positive result,” said the auditor’s office.


Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


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