State Auditor Nicole Galloway on Thursday released an audit of the city of Coffey that uncovered the loss of $60,000 from the municipal budget. A series of financial and clerical actions, allegedly transacted by the former city clerk, was cited for the shortfall.

COFFEY, Mo. — A state audit has discovered more than $60,000 missing from the small Northwest Missouri town of Coffey, Missouri.

On Thursday, State Auditor Nicole Galloway said an audit of Coffey describes how a former city clerk failed to make bank deposits, then falsified board minutes and bank balances to hide missing funds.

Galloway said a lack of oversight by the mayor’s office and the town’s Board of Aldermen contributed to the issue.

The ex-clerk, Mary L. Browning, allegedly conducted those activities over a nearly two-year period, according to the audit. The report also said Browning received improper payroll payments and various financial reports. Galloway described the situation as “a shell game of moving money between various city accounts in order to avoid detection.”

Browning has not been charged with any crime in connection with the missing money.

From September 2015 to August 2017, Browning was solely responsible for the financial accounting functions and records for the city. Officials fired her from the position on Aug. 2, 2017.

The audit — which was originally sought by the city board — further found that during Browning’s employment, she did not deposit almost $34,000 in utility payments, including more than $2,600 she had credited to her own utility account.

A bank official contacted a Coffey board member in August 2017 regarding suspicious activity on city bank accounts. The Daviess County Prosecuting Attorney’s office subsequently requested an investigation by the auditor.

Results of the audit have been submitted to local, state and federal law enforcement authorities.

The loss of the $60,000 directly impacted an annual budget of about $100,000 for Coffey, said Galloway.

“This directly affects citizens,” she said. “That’s their money. Citizens expect services.”

“This office is working closely in conjunction with the Daviess County Sheriff’s Office, the Missouri Auditor’s Office and other state and local agencies to ensure that a thorough investigation is completed in this matter,” said Daviess County Prosecuting Attorney Annie Gibson. “Once the investigation is complete, it will be sent to my office and a charging decision will be made.”

Responding to the concerns outlined in the audit, city officials said there is consideration for consolidating bank accounts. Monthly bank reconciliations are now being performed, and bank reconciliations are now reviewed by the mayor, who also ensures no bank fees are being incurred.

Officials added the current city clerk has updated the utility deposit list.

“We transferred monies into the utility deposit account to cover the shortages,” said a statement from the city to the auditor. “Discrepancies will be investigated and resolved.”

The population of Coffey was 166, according to the 2010 census.

Ray Scherer can be reached at ray.scherer@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPScherer.