Dooley admits system failure in county health dept scandal

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley is promising to get to the bottom of the scandal that rocked the County Health Department in recent weeks.  But critics say it could have been caught sooner.

No firm figures are available yet, but millions of dollars were diverted to a company set up by Edward Mueth, a trusted Health Department official.  The business, Gateway Technical Solutions had contracts with the county to lease the health department computer notebooks and laptops and provide software programs and maintenance.

County Councilman Greg Quinn (R) complained Friday the firm was never properly vettedand financial safeguards designed to protect tax dollars were ignored.  "You can`t have a company that really has no address, has no phone number, no web site, has no contact information."

"I think this is a textbook example of how a government should not be run and I really think it shows a complete disregard for taxpayer`s money by this administration," Quinn said.

Dooley spokesperson Pat Washington defended her boss.  "He understands there was a system failure.  He has challenged his staff to step up and make sure we have the proper checks and balances in place and that those have  been strengthened," she said in an interview Friday.

Quinn wants the St. Louis County Council to look at how existing safeguards can be strengthened and to enact stricter procurement procedures.  He said no one investigated when the county began paying the firm more than the three year contract authorized.

"There is nothing to hide,"  said Washington.  "This incident occurred because of someone who was a trusted, valued employee who took advantage of that trust  and abused their position.  You can`t put enough safeguards in place for someone who is intent on doing that," she added.

Mueth had worked his way up in the Health Department to director of administration and was approving all the invoices from his own firm.  The contracts violated the county`s rule against awarding contracts to any county official or employee.  He committed suicide the night before he was to be questioned about missing money.

Washington said county officials are still trying to learn how he managed to deliver the equipment and service it without anyone finding out he was the person behind Gateway Technical Solutions.

Fake company billed county $1.6M to rent computers

Betsey.bruce@tvstl.com

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