Missouri Attorney General’s Office: No evidence of timecard fraud in Oran
ORAN, Mo. — The Missouri Attorney General’s Office has declined to file charges over allegations of timecard fraud involving the Oran, Missouri, Police Department.
“After a thorough investigation by the Missouri State Highway Patrol, we do not have evidence, at this time, to support a criminal charge,” attorney general’s office spokeswoman Mary Compton said.
The single sentence was the only public comment made by the AG’s office regarding the outcome of the investigation into a controversy that has plagued the city of Oran for more than a year.
Oran residents Cindy Seyer and former city clerk Debra Phillips in April 2017 publicly accused police chief Gregg Ourth of engaging in nepotism in hiring his son Jason as a part-time officer, and that Jason had engaged in timecard fraud similar to past accusations made against his father.
Jason Ourth subsequently resigned.
City officials, including Gregg Ourth and Mayor Gary Senciboy, previously said the allegations were groundless. Gregg Ourth said at the time the accusations amounted to “vindictiveness.” A voice message left for Gregg Ourth was not returned Friday.
Senciboy said Friday he is “happy” with the decision not to prosecute.
“No crime has been committed,” he said. “There was no evidence.”
He added the city was “not a victim” in this situation.
But he said he was “upset” over the allegations because “it has tarnished my chief’s life and his son’s life.”
Senciboy said Seyer and Phillips should apologize for making the accusations and costing the city legal expenses associated with the matter.
Seyer expressed disappointment at the attorney general’s decision. She said the patrol investigation was a “preliminary inquiry” and not a thorough investigation. Voice messages left for Phillips were not returned Friday.
Capt. John Hotz, director of public information for the patrol, told the Southeast Missourian in October the agency was conducting “a preliminary inquiry into the matter to determine if any actions of any party are criminal and if an investigation is warranted.”
Phillips has said Jason Ourth did not clock in or out while working as a police officer. She said the police chief clocked in his son’s timecard and then manually wrote in clock-out times.
Seyer said at times Gregg Ourth would manually fill out the start time and end time on his son’s timecards. She said she has copies of those timecards.
Two recent audits showed several problems with city finances, including lack of a written approval policy for timecard corrections or changes by employees. “This allows employees to change their time card at will and be paid for hours not worked,” according to the most recent audit, which covers the 2014 fiscal year. The audit report said city officials have said they “will consider” adopting a policy.
During that fiscal year, the police chief was overpaid $1,200, according to the audit report obtained by the Southeast Missourian through a Sunshine Law request.
Senciboy previously defended the actions of Jason Ourth. He said Jason Ourth often worked the night shift and handled police surveillance duties, which is why residents did not see him driving the patrol car.
Seyer and Phillips have said they don’t believe that explanation. In their view, Jason Ourth was paid for work he did not do.
Seyer and Phillips had asked the Oran Board of Aldermen to request the highway patrol investigate the matter, contending there had been a pattern of timecard fraud involving Jason and Gregg Ourth.
The board refused to seek an investigation.
Phillips said Gregg Ourth was terminated in 2001 as a part-time officer in Oran because of timecard fraud. In 2013, the board hired Ourth as police chief.
Minutes of board meetings show the aldermen approved the termination of Gregg Ourth in May 2001, but Alderman Gil Roslen, who made the motion to fire him, said in June 2017 he doesn’t remember why then-police chief Howard Stevens wanted to remove Ourth from the police department.
Seyer last year repeatedly asked Scott County Sheriff Wes Drury to request a patrol investigation. In May 2017, the Scott County prosecutor’s office requested such an investigation. In July, the attorney general’s office was named special prosecutor in the case at the request of the county prosecutor’s office.
The patrol interviewed city officials, including the mayor. Seyer also was interviewed by investigators months ago.
She said the investigators told her “without a victim, there is very little they can do.”
Still, Seyer said she believes Jason Ourth committed timecard fraud and “should have never been hired.”