JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's former public safety director oversaw $1.25 million in payments to a charitable foundation he had ties with and he logged vacation time, including trips to the Daytona 500, as work time, according to a state audit released Wednesday.
A review of former director Drew Juden's time leading the Department of Public Safety found that the agency shelled out $1.25 million to the Missouri Police Chiefs Charitable Foundation for police fingerprinting technology. That's despite the fact that the Missouri State Highway Patrol already was providing that service to the agency with money from a federal grant.
The audit raised questions about the switch because Juden served as chairman of the Missouri Police Chiefs Charitable Foundation in 2016, giving the contract "the appearance of a conflict of interest."
"Missourians should have confidence their tax dollars are being used appropriately and that contracts are awarded in a way that gets the very best return on their investment. No one should think they are above those rules," Democratic Auditor Nicole Galloway said in a statement. "That's why it's so troubling that this audit uncovered deliberate actions to try to sidestep these policies."
None of the listed phone numbers for Juden were active on Wednesday and The Associated Press wasn't able to reach him for comment. He previously told KFVS-TV that he had distanced himself from the contract process.
Former Republican Gov. Eric Greitens appointed Juden to lead the Public Safety Department in January 2017. Juden left shortly after Greitens resigned in June 2018 in the face of possible impeachment.
New Gov. Mike Parson requested the audit after Sandra Karsten took over as public safety director in September 2018. Karsten called for an internal audit shortly after assuming the job, and at the time said the internal review raised concerns that merited a more in-depth investigation of past administration practices.
The audit by Galloway's office found that under Juden, the agency asked to contract with the Missouri Police Chiefs Charitable Foundation.
Auditors wrote that the agency's justification for switching "was that the funding being appropriated was a 'local initiative'" and that the foundation "had a vested interest in managing the project."
But the Auditor's Office said that wasn't true and claimed that Juden's administration "provided false assertions" in order to get an exemption that allowed the department to shell out money to the charitable foundation.
The audit also found that Juden reported working 8-hour days while he was in Florida. A staffer who managed Juden's calendar told auditors that the trips were personal and included attending the Daytona 500 NASCAR races in 2017 and 2018.
"The former Director stated that as long as he had access to telephone or email, he considered himself to be working," the report said.
According to auditors, Juden also drove agency vehicles 44% more than past directors and didn't report the number of miles traveled, the purpose of his trips and where he went.
In a response included in the audit, Karsten wrote that the agency agrees with the findings and "have already, and will continue, to take the necessary steps" to implement Galloway's recommendations.