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Election Commission asked to reimburse political subdivisions for ‘overcharges’

St. Charles County Elections Director Rich Chrismer says he isn’t trying to block payments to local political subdivisions for election costs.

“No one has been overcharged,” Chrismer said in an interview on July 15.

But County Auditor Brent Statler and Finance Director Bob Schnur want Chrismer to reimburse the political subdivisions for what they say are overcharges.

In a letter to Chrismer on July 11 released last week, they state that Chrismer agreed in May to return $113,000 in federal election grant funds to the Missouri Secretary of State’s office. The state’s review found that local jurisdictions had been overcharged, the letter states.

The letter also states the overcharges in election expenses for those jurisdictions amounted to $821,239.80 from 2008 to 2013. Of that total, $600,000 represented overcharges to county government and $221,367 to local political subdivisions such as municipalities, school districts and other jurisdictions.

“Both of us ask that you immediately authorize the payment of the $221,367.31 due and payable to all jurisdictions other than the county,” the letter states. “You can arrange the reimbursement to the county later.”

In a letter to some of those political subdivisions, Chrismer said the $113,000 he returned represented more money than the county was entitled to so it was sent back. “The county was overpaid,” he said in an interview on July 16.

Chrismer said the county bills local governments for the anticipated cost of elections using its own formula. Federal grant funds are used as reimbursement for election costs. Some money is also set aside to pay for new voting machines, he said.

“You were never overcharged, the funds were a reimbursement for expenses incurred,” he states in a July 15 letter to those political subdivisions.

He said he wanted to give some funds back to the political subdivisions in the form of a credit to offset costs in future elections. However, Schnur said the election authority should pay the political subdivisions what they are owed and not issue credits.

Along with the state audit, Statler provided Chrismer with a draft audit report in June that calculated amounts due to political subdivisions based on a review of elections from 2008 to 2013.

Statler and Schnur’s joint letter said, just as the state audit concluded, “You may not collect both grants to offset costs and payments of these cost by jurisdictions calling elections.”

“We don’t think its right for him to continue to stall on these payments,” Schnur said during an interview on July 14.

Schnur and Statler’s information included with the letter states that $34,128 is owed to the Francis Howell School District, $31,349 to the city of St. Peters, $27,397 to the St. Charles County Ambulance District, and $26,179 to the Wentzville School District.

Schnur said county officials have been unable to meet with Chrismer recently to discuss these issues and refunds.

Chrismer said he didn’t want to meet with Schur and Statler until after Aug. 5.

“I’m too busy,” Chrismer said. “I don’t have time right now, I’m running an election.”

He said releasing the joint letter now was politically motivated. Chrismer is seeking a fourth term. His opponents in the Republican party primary in August are former St. Charles Mayor Patti York and public advocate Arnie Dienoff of O’Fallon.

 

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