A state audit alleges three former board members of a southeast Missouri special sales tax district illegally used nearly $100,000 in public funding on their business – the Black Mountain Convenience Store. State Auditor Nicole Galloway says Donald, Curtis and Jacob Black, who once served on the Mountain Community Improvement District in Van Buren, used the money on operations costs, to buy equipment and inventory for resale and to install new fuel pumps and a walk-in beer cave. The report says the funding was also used to remodel restrooms, for painting, new wallpaper and electrical work.
Six months after the work was completed, Galloway says the store was sold to new owners and the public was not reimbursed for the funds used to make the improvements.
The audit – which started after two current board members contacted Galloway’s office – also found the board could not hand over acceptable records to support more than $77,000 of expenses. In addition, the board approved – without a written agreement – reimbursement of $135,000 in private business construction costs to a local developer who had past business dealings with the board chairman. The report says payments of $28,000 were made without an agreement.
“We discovered several members of the initial Black Mountain CID board used taxpayer money for their own benefit,” Galloway says in a press release. “CIDs are meant to fund projects that benefit the community. They aren’t supposed to be illegal personal piggy banks for board members or anyone else, especially for spectacularly improper projects like a $10,000 walk-in beer cave.”
Black Mountain CID was organized and approved by the city of Van Buren in 2010 to create a sales tax for the purpose of making public infrastructure improvements inside the district’s 17 acres.
Galloway says her office has sent the audit findings to state and federal law enforcement.
To view the full audit, click here.
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