As I reported in November, Byrnes Mill and Hillsboro are the two cities in Jefferson County with the most active municipal courts. They are 1st and 2nd in both fines per person and cases per person. Both cities share the same municipal judge, Colby Smith-Hynes.
When Smith-Hynes travels to the Missouri Municipal and Associate Circuit Judges Association (MMACJA) conference at Lake of the Ozarks each year, the two cities share the travel expenses. This blog has learned, via Sunshine requests to both cities, that, upon attending the 2012-2014 Missouri Municipal and Associate Circuit Judges Association (MMACJA) conferences at Lake of the Ozarks, Smith-Hynes submitted mileage expenses to both cities. By agreement, Hillsboro is supposed to pay this particular expense, and the city did so for each of these years. The improper mileage requests submitted to Byrnes Mill were as follows:
- 2012: $106.93 (289 miles x $0.37/mile)
- 2013: $142.82 (386 miles x $0.37/mile)
- 2014: $137.50 (327.4 miles x $0.42/mile)
- Total: $387.25
A Google Maps search indicates that it is 296 miles round-trip from Byrnes Mill to Lake Ozark. I can’t explain the varying distances shown above.
According to Byrnes Mill, Smith-Hynes will be reimbursing the city. Conference expenses for hotel, per diem, and registration were all paid properly (not double paid), according to records from the cities.
According to Smith-Hynes, who was reached via email, “This should not have happened and I am to blame for not catching it.” He calls it a “clear oversight” on his part. Personally, I have some trouble seeing how one can inadvertently file two separate mileage reimbursement requests, since that would mean calculating two different mileages and submitting two separate forms at roughly the same time. But that’s the explanation. I also note that this improper reimbursement did not occur in the five years prior to 2012 that Smith-Hynes attended the conference as judge of the two cities.
This act of double-dipping, inadvertent or not, comes from a man who has faced financial problems, according to state and federal court records (found on Casenet and Pacer, respectively). Smith-Hynes is paid $20,000 per year by Byrnes Mill, and I don’t know how much Hillsboro pays him. He also has a law firm.
While I recognize that this is not a great amount of money, I hope this episode will serve as a lesson for local governments to keep a closer eye on reimbursements, especially when sharing an employee with another jurisdiction. This also adds further evidence that a state audit of Byrnes Mill is in order.