By JIM SALTER , Associated Press
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A new audit found that Ferguson, Missouri, has made significant progress in addressing problems in its municipal court, which drew scrutiny for its treatment of poor and minority people after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in 2014.
Democratic Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway’s report released Monday was a follow-up to an April 2017 audit that found the St. Louis suburb’s court system in disarray. The 2017 audit found disorganized files, boxes moldy from a water leak, and cited the assessment of $26,000 in illegal fees and $1,400 in missing funds.
The new audit said court personnel have implemented new procedures aimed at preventing and detecting loss or theft, though the $1,400 is still missing.
“My last audit discovered careless and disorganized records management that led to serious questions as to the ability of the court to effectively serve citizens,” Galloway said in a news release. “While there is still work that needs to be done, efforts are underway to address the audit findings and implement better processes moving forward.”
The court has new procedures to ensure independent reviews of records, financial activity and modifications to transactions, the audit said. It also noted that the court now has a system to better document reviews of closed cases and dismissed tickets.
Ferguson City Manager De’Carlon Seawood said in a statement Monday that the city’s municipal courts have taken “substantial steps” to comply with the audit.
“The City of Ferguson Municipal Courts are definitely moving in the right direction,” he said. “The judge, the prosecutor and the court staff are dedicated to moving the city forward.”
The City of Ferguson Municipal Courts have taken substantial steps to comply with the State Auditors report. The City of Ferguson Municipal Courts will continue its progress in implementing audit findings and the requirements of the Consent Decree. The City of Ferguson Municipal Courts are definitely moving in the right direction; the Judge, Prosecutor and Court Staff are dedicated to moving the City forward.
Last year’s audit cited $26,000 in illegal fees such as a $15 “letter fee” and a $50 “warrant recall fee.” The court also charged a $75 “non-prosecution fee” for those who made an initial report but eventually declined to seek charges.
Brown was 18, black and unarmed, when he was fatally shot by white officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, 2014, following a confrontation in a neighborhood street. Wilson was eventually cleared of wrongdoing and resigned in November 2014.
The shooting resulted in sometimes violent protests and heightened scrutiny in the St. Louis suburb. A review by the U.S. Department of Justice found biased treatment of blacks by Ferguson’s police and accused the municipal court of making money on the backs of poor and minority residents. A settlement with the Justice Department requires reforms under supervision of a monitor team.