The Missouri Sheriffs’ Association — an organization to which the Franklin County department belongs — has fired back against the state auditor’s office for releasing “false allegations” concerning the Missouri sex offender registry program.

In a release penned by Kevin Merritt, executive director of Missouri Sheriffs’ Association, it states the official report from Auditor Nicole Galloway’s office failed to account for sex offenders who are in prison, dead or have warrants for their arrest.

The release also states sheriff’s offices in Missouri were not contacted fo​​r input prior to the release of the report.

“Had she simply contacted the sheriffs for input before releasing the report and not rushed to judgment, the auditor would have discovered the number of those she asserts to be unaccounted for simply is not true,” Merritt said. “Some offenders are in prison and accounted for, some have passed away and are accounted for and many others are in the process for criminal prosecution, which requires an investigation.”

According to the statewide report, authorities do not know the location of almost 1,300 registered sex offenders in Missouri.

Franklin County

The report indicates 10 sex offenders in Franklin County who are unaccounted for.

As reported in The Missourian Oct. 6-7 edition, there actually are just eight in the county who are noncompliant, of those four of them have warrants for their arrest.

Of the other four who are “noncompliant,” one is dual registered in the county where he had been employed and should be removed from the Franklin County rolls.

“We have people coming in and out weekly,” Franklin County Sheriff Steve Pelton said. “There is always an ebb and flow.”

A second offender only is listed with a residence in Franklin County because he was in jail here, and the state requires offenders who live at a certain address for more than three days to register in that county. The man has since been released and returned to the county where he had lived.

Pelton noted the county continues to take an aggressive approach to locating noncompliant offenders, conducting two status checks each year.

“The safety of kids is always a priority of this office,” he said.

Further Disputes

Merritt also stated previous auditors, or staff, have contacted sheriffs who provided “input and expertise” into the administration of the sex offender registry.

“Had this auditor done her due diligence, as did previous auditors, she would have uncovered the truth behind the numbers of offenders she alleges are unaccounted for in Missouri,” he added.

According to Merritt, he met with an audit manager from Galloway’s office in July where he shared factors that could influence the low totals of outstanding warrants for noncompliant sex offenders, enforcement and prosecution priorities, as well as other reasons to why warrants are not being obtained for noncompliant sex offenders.

“The auditor’s assertion that the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association declined to provide a response to the issues noted in her report is a flat out lie,” Merritt continued. “At the conclusion of her audit, neither the auditor nor the auditor’s designated representative shared a copy of a draft report of the audit with either the Sheriffs’ Association or any sheriff.”

Furthermore, Merritt contends, Galloway “rushed her report to the press” and no law enforcement officials were given an opportunity to review the draft to refute the false assertions.

“This failure to communicate her findings shows callousness for law enforcement and a total misunderstanding of the basic concepts of a criminal investigation,” he said.

More Criticism

Merritt also wrote the report gives the impression that sheriffs and prosecutors are not doing their jobs.

“It shows a disregard for and a complete misunderstanding of the important role these offices play in Missouri,” he stated.

Merritt said previous auditors published who they contacted in their reports, but Galloway’s office “hid behind state statutes stating it would not release information related to the audit”.

“If the issue is really one of ensuring the sex offender law is properly enforced, it is imperative that the auditor’s office exhibit nonbiased reporting in an open and transparent manner,” he said.

By Gregg Jones | Missourian