- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 14, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The state auditor and some Missouri lawmakers are proposing legislation that would allow law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and circuit attorneys to request an audit of any political subdivision or government entity.

The St. Joseph News-Press (http://bit.ly/2gALET4 ) reports that the change would enable an auditor to investigate improper government activities, such as misconduct, fraud or misappropriation. The bill would also change the punishments issued to people found guilty is such situations and allow restitution to be paid to citizens.

State Auditor Nicole Galloway said several findings in local governments and agencies led to the need for the proposed legislation.

“When we have public officials that line their pockets with public dollars, which take advantage of their powers, which take advantage of the citizens they serve, then we need to hold them accountable,” Galloway said.

Under the bill, a first offense would make a person guilty of a Class B misdemeanor. A person found guilty of a second offense or of first-degree official misconduct would be guilty of a class E felony, punishable by as many as four years in prison.

Sen. Bob Dixon, who filed the bill, said the legislation “will strengthen our criminal laws.”

“It will provide a method to ensure someone who embezzles taxpayer money can be held accountable by our courts for paying it back,” Dixon said.

Galloway hopes the bipartisan bill will be on the governor’s desk by January, and in effect by August 2017.

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Information from: St. Joseph News-Press/St. Joe, Missouri, http://www.newspressnow.com

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