Stenger calls for watchdog's firing following News 4 investigati - KMOV.com

Stenger calls for watchdog's firing following News 4 investigation

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Mark Tucker (Credit: KMOV) Mark Tucker (Credit: KMOV)

ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- He was the man hired to be the watchdog for your tax dollars, but the IRS is after him for owing a whopping amount in back taxes.

St. Louis County Auditor Mark Tucker is being paid nearly $90,000 a-year. But in the six months he's been on the job, he hasn't produced a single audit.

“There’s no accounting experience, there's no auditing experience whatsoever,” said St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger.

Stenger says the auditor plays an important role for taxpayers. The previous county auditor, for example, helped root out a near $3.5 million embezzlement scheme by a health department official back in 2014.

“The person who holds that office is responsible for a great deal. They are really a taxpayer watchdog,” said Stenger.

Stenger had no say in Tucker's hiring six months ago. By law, it's up to the county council. Tucker was recommended by Council Chairman Dr. Sam Page.

A former lobbyist, News 4 confirmed Tucker was tied to Page’s campaign when Page previously ran for Lieutenant Governor.

“It was a longtime friend of his through politics. I don't know what kind of favor (Page) thinks he owed (Tucker),” Stenger said.

But the law requires the auditor have five years accounting experience. Tucker is not a CPA and has never been been employed as an accountant, Stenger said.

Why not just ask Tucker himself for proof of his experience?

Prosecutor Bob McCulloch said it's not so easy.

“We are really at a standstill,” McCulloch told News 4.

It's McCulloch's job now to find out if Tucker has the required experience under the county charter to hold the position. But both Tucker and Page refuse to cooperate with his investigation, McCulloch said.

“He said 'Look, I am not talking to you about it',” McCulloch said.

For months, McCulloch's office has been trying to find Tucker's past employers to verify past work experience.

“It’s not unheard of that someone might pad a resume just a touch,” McCulloch said.

A LinkedIn account says Tucker's a director at lobbying firm Pelopidas.

But leaders the firm said Tucker left in 2009 and he never held the title of director. Now that his name is on the door at the county government building, what's he been up to at the Auditor's office?

News 4 asked just that. 

In the past, the county auditor would release about eight completed audits every year. In six months, Tucker has not produced an audit. 

Paid an $85,000 salary, it's considered a desk job. Some county employees told News 4, they don't know what Tucker does with his days.

County employees have to use a security device to enter the building. News 4 checked Tucker's county access card. He's been on the job for about 120 business days. Of those, his security access card entries appeared to show that he didn't come to work for 12 percent of that duration.

He came in after 9:00 a.m. over 70 percent of the time. He arrived after 11:00 a.m. 40 percent of the time.

There were times when he didn't appear to come to work until late in the afternoon.

“It’s as if he's simply not doing his job,” Stenger said.

Stenger is especially troubled, though, by what News 4 uncovered about Tucker's personal finances.

“To have an individual who doesn't pay his own taxes; it's unconscionable,” Stenger said.

Documents filed at the courthouse show Tucker owes more than $91,000 in federal back taxes.

"To think that this individual is auditing our county is an embarrassment, frankly, and to couple that with the fact that he hasn't completed a single audit, I am very troubled," Stenger added.

News 4 Investigates wanted to talk to Tucker. After an interview request that went unanswered, we caught up with him inside the county government building. He told us he was on the phone, although it appeared his ear buds were not connected to anything.

News 4 waited for hours but he never came out. Page told News 4 that he was unavailable this week for an on-camera interview. In emails, Page did not respond to some of News 4's specific inquiries but he said he is "confident Mr. Tucker will do his job with independence, fairness, and objectivity."

In another email he said that "Mr. Tucker is well-qualified for the position." He said the council instructed Tucker to organize the office in a professional manner, fill vacancies, handle the three-year external audit RFP and other routine duties prior to initiating audits.  

Tucker sent an email saying the job isn't a traditional 9-5 and requires work before and after traditional hours. He did not respond to our repeated inquiries about the back taxes.

Stenger said he's heard, and seen, enough.

“It’s either deception or incompetence, but regardless, I think he needs to go. And I think he needs to be terminated immediately,” said Stenger.

Stenger tells me he intends to submit a letter to the council asking for Tucker to be terminated.

News 4 will certainly let you know what happens. 

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