Audit shows St. Louis County spent $500K on new vehicles during budget crisis

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by John Knicely / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on May 15, 2012 at 8:58 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 16 at 8:28 AM

ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- St. Louis County spent more than $500,000 on new vehicles last year according to an audit released Tuesday.  This came as County Executive Charlie Dooley warned of a fiscal crisis.  At one point Dooley said several county parks would have to close.  After an outcry from county residents, Dooley kept all parks open and instead cut 24 parks employees.

The audit also showed $129,000 of available money for capital improvements that was apparently a surprise to the parks department.  That money is part of 2 separate bond issues passed years ago.  The accounts are available for the county to use on capital improvements to county parks and have been used in the past.

Councilman Greg Quinn says it shows he and other councilmen were right that the fiscal crisis wasn’t as bad as it was being portrayed.  He pointed out that the audit showed $315,000 was spent on new vehicles after talk had begun of closing parks.

“At one time Charlie Dooley said we needed to close half the parks,” Quinn said.  “At the same time they're buying half a million dollars in brand new vehicles. It just sounds like sloppy management.”

Charlie Dooley was at an event at the time of this story so his spokesman, Mac Scott, commented on his behalf.  Scott says Dooley and his staff knew about the $129,000 and had factored that into their calculations.  And he said the vehicle spending was absolutely necessary as part of keeping the parks operational.

“These are front-end loaders, these are big pickup trucks,” Scott said.  “They do a lot of the work for park personnel.  So we need to replace the equipment as it ages and falls into disrepair.”

Quinn says the audit shows the need for better management moving forward.  Scott says Dooley’s office finds the audit beneficial and can learn from it moving forward.

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