JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A former Wright County Collector may have forged up to $7,000 worth of checks from county accounts.
Missouri state auditor, Nicole Galloway, released an audit that uncovered startling new information about the former collector, Cynthia Cottengim, who admitted guilty to writing $500 in forged checks last summer.
The report described how Cottengim manipulated county property tax records in order to give approximately $6,500 in property tax breaks for herself and others. The property tax system showed thousands of dollars in bills owed by Cottengim and family bill were marked “paid” but had no documentation to back the claim.
Cottengim also adjusted records to reduce penalties to herself, family, and others involved on delinquent property taxes. Some of the adjustments were made by the former deputy collector.
In addition, Cottengim unlawfully overpaid herself around $700 in railroad tax, utility tax, and property tax commissions.
Galloway said, “The new county collector certainly has an important task ahead as she puts the office back in working order and restores the trust of the people in their local government. In addition, the collector and the county commission should review the system that allowed these activities to take place, and act swiftly to implement the corrective actions I have recommended to improve operations and accountability in the office.”
Multiple operational concerns were also noted in the audit of the former Wright County collector including failure to log payments and inaccurate filing of taxes.
Auditor Galloway’s report included that she will return next year to review office operations since the county received the lowest performance rating available.