State Auditor Tom Schweich outlined to journalists what “red flags” he uses in his investigations of corruption in governmental entities, and hinted that he believes embezzlement cases are on the rise even though he  has no comparisons with other years since he has been auditor. Schweich, who is running for re-election this year, spoke to Missouri journalists Thursday at an annual Day at the Capital sponsored by the Associated Press and Missouri Press Association.

He stated 25 public officers have been investigated for embezzlement since he’s been the auditor, and investigating that crime has been one of his chief priorities since he assumed the office. He said it has been “amazing” how many embezzlement cases involving public officials have come to light. He explained that his office has found large problems in some school districts.

The public trust that goes with elective office isn’t what it once was, it seems, although there always have been some dishonest officeholders. The temptations are there and some officials succumb to them. The past week the former mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, was convicted of a $500,000 bribery and conspiracy scheme, and he faces about 20 years in prison. A federal grand jury found him guilty on 20 of 21 counts. He was charged during a federal investigation of corruption in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. After a major disaster, such as Katrina, there’s a lot of federal money in the pipeline. 

Businesses are targets quite often by embezzlers. A report by Marquet International, an investigations and security consulting firm, said incidents of major embezzlements in the U.S., in cases in which $100,000 was misappropriated, increased 11 percent in 2012 compared to the number of cases the year before.

We would not say Missouri compares to some other states in corruption by public officials, but we do have our crimes. We are not in the same corruption league as our neighbor Illinois!

Our state auditor makes a good impression and he is following the lead of other auditors Missouri has had who demonstrated a zealous approach in operating the office.