State Auditor Believes Fire Set as a Cover-Up in Missouri

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- State and federal investigators are scrutinizing a fire that Missouri's state auditor suspects was set to destroy court records involving at least $50,000 missing at an eastern Missouri community's city hall.

The Aug. 29 fire in the Troy city hall's basement came just a day before Auditor Claire McCaskill's office was to have begun a basic audit of the town's municipal records.

Flames apparently destroyed or severely damaged some court records from the entire audit period, leading McCaskill to suggest Thursday that ''the fire was set to obviously destroy court records.''

McCaskill said her office managed to piece together some records and found that the court had collected at least $50,950 since June 2002, though that amount had not been deposited in the municipal division bank account. Most of the money appeared to come from bond payments.

McCaskill said she believes more money could be missing.

''We've had evidence of records being shredded, evidence of records being removed from the premises, but I don't recall in my six-plus years anybody setting a fire the day before we got there,'' she said.

Troy Mayor Charles Kemper Jr. said he agreed ''completely, 100 percent'' with McCaskill's assessment that money is missing from the municipal court and that a fire may have been set to cover that up.

Kemper and Troy's police chief, Jeff Taylor, said a former employee suspected in the theft and blaze has been fired but has not been charged. Investigators are close to submitting their case to federal prosecutors, Taylor said.

''I have a commitment to the community of Troy to solve this case, and we're in the final stretch of making that case,'' he said.

On the Net:

City of Troy

Missouri State Auditor's Office