Dooley seeks permission from FBI to release audit

Councilman calls lack of communication from county executive’s office ’embarrassing’

County Executive Charlie Dooley

County Executive Charlie Dooley

By Gloria Lloyd

County Executive Charlie Dooley changed course last week to ask the FBI to allow him to publicly release the contents of its investigation into a Department of Health employee, after he had previously maintained that the agency barred him from releasing the results.

In its investigation, the FBI found that Administrative Manager Edward Mueth acted alone when he created a fake company to direct millions of dollars in county computer contracts to himself, but nothing else from the audit, released to the county Jan. 31, has been made public. Mueth killed himself last year after county officials learned of the fraud.

“County citizens remain concerned about this matter and have made known their desire to examine the records firsthand,” Dooley wrote in a July 10 letter to FBI Special Agent in Charge Dean Bryant. “We are mindful of the FBI’s desire to protect its investigations, but feel that the need for transparency ‘trumps’ any privacy the FBI may wish to assert in this matter.”

The audit’s existence came to light only a few weeks ago, through requests from the media made under the state’s Open Meetings and Records Act, also called the Sunshine Law. Although he learned the details of the investigation in January, Dooley never shared the findings with the County Council or briefed council members on the findings, said 5th District Councilman Pat Dolan, D-Richmond Heights.

“I really don’t know much about the investigation or who’s being investigated — we’ve never been privileged to hear anything about it,” Dolan said. “I wish I knew what was going on. It’s embarrassing to find out from somebody else.”

In a July 1 letter, County Counselor Pat Redington notified the council for the first time that the health department audit exists and told council members that the county had been warned by the FBI not to show the documents to anyone “outside your agency.”

As to whether a member of the County Council is inside the county agency, Dolan said he would believe so, but at the least Dooley could have briefed council members on the outlines of the investigation.

In response to questions about what was in the FBI audit, county Chief Operating Officer Garry Earls has provided some broad outlines of the findings to the media over the past few weeks, which is how Dolan learned about them, too.

“Just as a courtesy, you’d think we’d be kept apprised of what’s going on,” Dolan said. “But there again, there’s a lack of communication.

“So I saw it in the media, which is somewhat disappointing — it’s embarrassing, frankly.”

Earls reported that the FBI audit tracked Mueth’s bank accounts and the money trail from his phony company, Gateway Technical Solutions, to find if any of his money went to anyone else, so that the county could find out how much was stolen and how county officials could try to get some of it back. The money trail accounted for the entire $3.4 million in stolen county funds, Earls said.

Two months ago, Dooley requested an additional $95,000 fraud assessment from Clayton-based firm RubinBrown on the Department of Health. He has said the assessment is necessary to see what is going on at the health department and has brought the audit back for the past two months, gaining no traction for the idea from five of the six council members.

County Counselor Pat Redington denied the Call’s Sunshine Law request for documents from the FBI’s investigation into the health department, citing a letter enclosed with the investigation documents from Bryant, who wrote, “Please be advised that the documents are loaned to your agency and their contents are not to be distributed outside your agency, and the documents must be returned to the FBI once your agency no longer needs them.”

The county Police Department is still conducting its own investigation into Mueth, but Public Information Officer Brian Schellman said he had no details about when the police might be done with their investigation.

Although the FBI found that Mueth acted alone, the county is still conducting its own investigation into whether he had any accomplices that the police could pursue for criminal charges, Schellman added.

Detectives are sifting through 25 terabytes of digital data, he noted.

“It’s a big, entire, ongoing investigation right now,” he said.

FBI spokeswoman Rebecca Wu referred all questions, even about the FBI investigation, to the county Police Department.

Although Dolan said he does not want to interfere with the ongoing investigation, he said he is eager to learn anything he can about the FBI’s findings.

“Whoever finds out, let us know, because we’ll be the last to know,” he said.