A report from Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway has found numerous problems in the Lawrence County town of Miller. During the citizen-requested audit of the city, auditors were made aware of a criminal investigation and, as a result, issued a separate report outlining concerns with operations of the Miller Police Department.
That report, which involved members of the State Auditor’s Public Corruption and Fraud Division, outlines the details of improper payroll payments and missing city-owned equipment – including weapons and computers.
Based on the findings of the audits, both the city and the department received ratings of “poor.” The former police chief and his brother, a former lieutenant with the department, currently face criminal charges.
“On multiple occasions it appears the former police chief and his brother took deliberate action to take advantage of the city and its taxpayers. They must be held to account,” Auditor Galloway said. “My office’s Public Corruption and Fraud Division will continue to work with law enforcement on the pending criminal charges. As long as there are officials who put their own self-interest above the community they are supposed to serve, my office will remain committed to fighting public corruption.”
During the audit of the City of Miller, the Auditor’s Office was made aware of improprieties concerning the city police department with some disbursements and seized property. The Auditor determined additional work was necessary to review transactions of the department.
The former police chief, Joshua Bruce, was terminated by the city in May 2017 for preparing and approving false timesheets showing time worked by his brother, Randall, who was a lieutenant in the department. He also was terminated for failing to prepare fuel records, submitting unsupported mileage reimbursements, making unauthorized credit card purchases, and using city funds to purchase surplus property for personal use. Randall Bruce was terminated on the same date for false timesheets.
Auditor Galloway’s report provides details on improper payroll checks totaling $24,623 issued to Randall Bruce but negotiated by Joshua Bruce. The audit also discovered $1,758 in improper overtime payments to Chief Bruce related to highway safety grants. The audit also brought to light $12,795 paid to the former chief in unsupported and excessive mileage reimbursements and $3,598 in questionable fuel purchases made with the former chief’s city-issued credit card.
The audit found that Chief Bruce used city credit cards to purchase $1,859 worth of personal items or services, as well as $362 in meals that didn’t appear to relate to city business. The purchases included hardware and building supplies, truck accessories and items from iTunes.
Other details in the audit include items purchased by the former chief through the State Agency for Surplus Property and the Missouri Department of Public Safety that were either missing or found at his house, including computers, monitors, field packs, clothing, rifleman sets and tools.
In addition, Chief Bruce made unauthorized cash purchases of two semi-automatic rifles costing more than $1,000 each. For one of the rifles, he gave the vendor a letter indicating the purchase was for the city police department.
City officials reported they did not authorize the purchase of that rifle and do not know the source of the cash used to make the purchases. One of these weapons was found at the former chief’s home, but the other has not been located. The Missouri State Highway Patrol also located various seized property items, including firearms, at Joshua Bruce’s home.
Joshua Bruce has been charged with multiple criminal counts of receiving stolen property, both felony and misdemeanor, and Randall Bruce has been charged with a felony criminal count of receiving stolen property.
Those charges are pending, and Auditor Galloway’s Public Corruption and Fraud Division is working with law enforcement on additional information discovered during the audit process.
In the separate audit of city operations, the report found significant weaknesses in the city’s utility operations (water, sewer and trash) and financial condition.
The audit also pointed to the need to improve payroll controls and procedures, including the need for accurate time-sheets and leave records, and the need for establishing and following personnel policies on overtime and the employment and supervision of related employees.
The audit also recommended increased oversight of accounting procedures and budgeting. The city has not established adequate procedures to ensure that restricted revenues are recorded into the appropriate fund or used for their intended purpose.
The complete report on the City of Miller Police Department can be found here. The complete report on the City of Miller can be found here.