JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — An audit could find no documentation supporting the purpose or need for the former-Director of the Missouri Department of Conservation to be paid more than $120,000 in additional benefits after his resignation.

The audit also identified “deficiencies in internal controls, noncompliance with legal provisions, and the need for improvement in management practices and procedures.”

On Thursday, Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway released her report on the Missouri Department of Conservation. The Department received an overall rating of fair, which indicates “this entity needs to improve operations in several areas.”

“Missouri is well-known across the nation for premier outdoor opportunities, making the work of the Department of Conservation an important part of our economy,” Galloway said. “It’s crucial that officials ensure every dollar spent has value for Missouri taxpayers by supporting their mission.”

Part of the audit includes details of a separation agreement that resulted in more than $120,000 in additional benefits to the former director after he resigned on July 15, 2016. The former director was paid for compensatory time earned during his 20 years of employment, plus annual leave, holiday pay, insurance premiums and other benefits earned after resignation.

The audit also found issues with the separation agreement finding that is was not supported by documented justification of need or purpose, included excessive compensation that was not a prudent use of MDC resources or in the best interest of Missouri taxpayers, lacked clear and definite terms and conditions, and deviated from MDC policy and standard practices for state employee terminations.

“The agreement to pay the former Director for all accrued compensatory time was not consistent with MDC policy and cost the state approximately $76,000,” states the report.

The MDC’s practice of providing compensatory time to the director is unnecessary based on the nature and requirements of the position, according to the audit. No other state department director earns comp time.

The former director also stayed on MDC’s payroll for 10 months after he left his “at-will” position acquiring nearly $20,000 in benefits earned and paid beyond what was specified in his separation agreement.

“MDC officials indicated this was a ‘confidential personnel matter,’ and the establishment of the agreement was well within the Commission’s powers,” the report states.

The report also recommended changes to the department’s comp time policies in general. Contrary to policies in most state agencies, top level supervisory and managerial staff at the Department of Conservation are able to earn comp time, including the director and deputy directors.

There are also no limits on some comp time earned or accrued by employees. As of June 30, 2017, the MDC had a liability of $2.4 million for the largest type of comp time. Department policy does not require payment for all the accrued comp time hours upon termination, but in all cases, the department is liable for any hours used as leave time during employment.

Previous audit reports questioned use of state aircraft. While the department has discontinued the practice of using charter flights for commission-related business, the report includes recommendations that officials reevaluate using the state plane in certain circumstances.

The audit included another repeat finding from the previous audit questioning the lack of meal limits for employees when traveling.  

The full report on the Department of Conservation can be found here.

Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at alisha@themissouritimes.com.