Mathis bows out as Stoddard County presiding commissioner

Thursday, March 8, 2018

BLOOMFIELD, Mo. -- Stoddard County Presiding Commissioner Greg Mathis surprised many of his fellow office holders, announcing Monday morning he would not run for a fifth term as presiding commissioner.

"I didn't feel I was giving the job of presiding commissioner as much time as I should have," Mathis said, citing demands at his business, Rainey-Mathis Funeral Home.

He went on to say he thought about his decision at length, and said the time was right for him to step away.

"This is the right decision, and I'm comfortable with it," Mathis said.

Before serving four terms as presiding commissioner, Mathis served the county as deputy coroner and was appointed coroner by Gov. Mel Carnahan after the passing of then coroner, Ray Rainey. Mathis went on to serve two terms as county coroner.

With the possible jail expansion on the horizon, Mathis urges someone to step into the office who has a good grasp of financial numbers.

"The number one thing the commission does is the budget," he said.

Mathis also urged the potential future commissioner to have a good understanding of agriculture including bridges and rural roads.

"Agriculture drainage is also one of the number one things we deal with," he said.

Mathis added he has enjoyed his time as presiding commissioner.

"I won't close the door on anything in the future, but for right now, it's time for me to turn the page," he said.

Following Mathis' announcement, County Clerk Joe Watson also added he would not run for reelection.

Holding the county clerk position since 2011, Watson said now is the time for him to retire.

"I appreciate the opportunity to serve the residents of Stoddard County as their county clerk for the past eight years," Watson said. "I am retiring and looking forward to spending more time with our grandkids."

As of Tuesday morning, Danny Talkington, previous District 1 Commissioner, had filed for the presiding commissioner office. Cecil Weeks was the only candidate to file for the clerk position. The offices of prosecuting attorney, recorded of deeds, circuit clerk and associate circuit judge are also up for election.

Interested parties have until 5 p.m. March 27 to file for the offices at the Stoddard County Clerk's office. The election will take place in August.

The county secured $369,198 in Community Development Block Grant funding for road infrastructure improvements to the intersection of State Highway Y and State Highway 25. This infrastructure grant

will aid the county in providing public infrastructure improvements needed to assist the expansion of Nestle Purina.

The total project cost is estimated to be $868,700. The county also requested $65,152 of local cash provided by Stoddard County IDA and $434,350 from other funding sources to assist in the project.

Stoddard County was presented with the findings of their audit completed by Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway's office and received a rating of "fair."

Watson said this was a "policy and procedure" audit and the financial audit was "fine."

Some of the findings in the audit included the Stoddard County Sheltered Facilities Board not bidding the construction of an office building and workspace, not ensuring the contractor complied with prevailing wage laws and a $30,000 transfer made from the Tax Maintenance Fund in 2017 from the collector.

Mathis said he has never had an issue with any audit in the past in which the county is told what they are doing wrong, and the issue is corrected.

"We had an exit interview with the auditors, and we went over the deficiencies with the exception of the SB40 Board and Shelter Workshop," Mathis said.

"I'm somewhat upset. I think we got slapped on the back on it and were not told it was part of the audit and has never been on previous audits."

Mathis said he spoke with Chris Vetter, who completed the audit, after discovering the SB40 Board was included in the county's audit, and expressed his displeasure and informed Vetter this item had never been included before to the best of his knowledge.

Mathis went on to say the SB40 Board and Sheltered Workshop are separate entities with their own audits and tax base and the county commission is a "pass through" for collecting the tax money and sending it on.

"I think it sheds a bad light on the commission. It looks as if we were the ones who did not seek bids for the construction project being built," Mathis said. "That is totally wrong. We had nothing to do with the lack of bidding process or construction process."

Commissioner Carol Jarrell expressed she also agreed the commission should not have been held responsible for what the Stoddard County Sheltered Facilities Board did. She went on to say she was very proud of the hard work Watson did to comply with all the concerns set forth by the audit.

"The fair rating I think is truly uncalled for. I don't think we should have received that," Jarrell said. "They (auditors) should have said on the exit review they did with us instead of blind siding us all of a sudden with something like this."

The collector collects a penalty of seven percent of the total charged on delinquent taxes and two-sevenths of this penalty is required to be paid into the Tax Maintenance Fund to be used for additional administrative or operational costs related to the office of the county collector.

To prevent money from being taken out of the general fund, Collector Carla Moore offered to help other office holders by taking money from her fund for items needed in other's offices. The $30,000 from the tax maintenance fund was used to assist with improvements and repairs to the annex building for the sheriff's department.

Commissioner Steve Jordan also agreed the fair rating was unfair.

"We are not responsible for the SB40 Board, and no money is missing, and office holders tried to help each other," he said. "I think it's unfair the way this thing was put together."

Also cited were password concerns for the Recorder of Deeds office and no proof of publication of the county's financial statement for 2014-2016.

"The password stuff is trivial and can be worked out easy enough," Mathis said.

Watson added the financial statements were provided for the years requested.

"Some things we can control and others we can't," Watson said in response to the audit findings. "We have no control over the Sheltered Facilities Board and the collector's maintenance fund was a way for the collector to help other office holders with the purchase of equipment and items needed, so it was done for the good of the county.

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