ST. CHARLES COUNTY • County Elections Director Rich Chrismer has returned $113,000 in federal grants after a state review concluded that his office had charged local governments for the same election-related tasks.
Meanwhile, the county’s auditor and finance director say Chrismer has overcharged cities, school districts and other local governments $221,367 for election costs from 2008 through last year. The two are pressing him to make immediate refunds.
“Further delay in making these payments is not justified and unfair to the affected political subdivisions,” Auditor Brent Statler and Finance Director Bob Schnur said in a letter Friday to Chrismer.
The two also assert that Chrismer overcharged the county government itself by about $600,000 but say a reimbursement of that can be arranged later.
Chrismer, who is running for re-election in the Aug. 5 Republican primary against two opponents, acknowledged returning the federal grant money in May, saying he hadn’t realized “we were over-reimbursed.”
Meanwhile, Chrismer questioned the local figures cited by the two county officials. He insisted that he hadn’t overcharged anyone.
“This definitely needs an explanation, but with three weeks before the election this is not a good time to analyze this issue,” Chrismer said in a letter Monday to the County Council.
He said he’s willing to discuss the matter with the two after the primary and suggested an outside auditor be brought in. He also said the county administration could issue some of the refunds itself.
He said in an interview that he would rather give credits to localities for any overcharges. The credits could then cover some of their costs in future elections. Schnur responded: “If you owe people money, you should pay it and be done with it.”
According to data released by Schnur and Statler, the Francis Howell School District was the local government owed the most: $34,128.
That was followed by St. Peters, $31,349; the County Ambulance District, $27,397, and the Wentzville School District, $26,179.
Chrismer said he charges local governments for expected costs before an election, then later checks on what portion might be reimbursed by federal grants. The Missouri secretary of state’s office administers the grants and issued the request for the $113,000 refund.
The overcharging issue was first raised publicly in 2012 in a lawsuit against the county by Chrismer’s former assistant director, Charlene Lohman.
However, Schnur, an appointee of County Executive Steve Ehlmann, said he began looking into the issue earlier himself, in 2010.
Chrismer, a former state representative from St. Peters, is seeking a fourth four-year term as elections director in this year’s election.
In the primary he is challenged by former St. Charles Mayor Patti York and political activist Arnie Dienoff of O’Fallon.
Chrismer accused Schnur of trying to help York. Schnur denied having a political motivation. He said Chrismer has delayed dealing with the issue because “he doesn’t want this to come out before the election.”
One Democrat is running for the job - Kate Runyan, a former Chrismer employee.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article included an incorrect number in the headline