JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.- Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway has released a progress report on the office of the Wright County Collector. The latest report shows progress after an audit identified numerous inappropriate and fraudulent activities by former Wright County Collector Cynthia Cottengim.
“My review found Wright County and the current collector have successfully instituted a number of safeguards to better protect public dollars,” Auditor Galloway said. “The unfortunate revelations of last year have resulted in necessary changes.”
The former collector resigned in July of 2016 after pleading guilty to forging nearly $500 worth of checks from county accounts, but a subsequent review found that was just a fraction of the amount mishandled during Cottengim’s time as Wright County Collector. A December 2016 audit report found the total amount exceeded $7,000.
Since that time, the county commission and clerk have taken on new oversight responsibilities. The county clerk and commission now review property tax records to ensure payments made by the county collector and staff are properly handled. Galloway says improvements are still needed to address oversight for adjustments to property tax records. She says this previous lack of oversight was a contributing factor that allowed records to be manipulated to give inappropriate property tax breaks to the former collector, her family members and others.
The county also took additional proactive steps to recoup various costs, including legal, audit, and accounting costs from the bonding company related to the former collector’s actions.
The State Auditor’s Office and Wright County officials continue to work with law enforcement in pursuit of justice on this matter.
Numerous other operational concerns were identified in the prior audit. Because the office received an overall performance rating of poor, the lowest rating available, audit staff returned this year to review the operations under the management of the new county collector. A complete copy of the follow up review for the Wright County Collector’s Office is online here.