Taney County Prosecutor Jeff Merrell has requested that a special investigator be appointed to conduct an official investigation into the alleged misappropriation of funds by a county commissioner.

Western District Commissioner Jim Strafuss alleges that Presiding Commissioner Chuck Pennel paid EGIS Engineering $12,000 without the approval of all commissioners. Pennel says, "It was an outstanding bill that we owed a company that we have a contract with."

Pennel says he was under the impression that Strafuss authorized the payment to EGIS, and he transferred the bill to accounts payable after an engineer approached him expressing concern that he had not been paid and needed to make payroll.

At last week's county commission meeting, Strafuss told commissioners that the check had already been cashed and was concerned about recouping the money if the county had indeed overpaid EGIS.

Pennel, who is up for reelection this year, told The Sentinel "I'm at fault...there's no question about it. I wrote the county a check from my personal savings account for $12, 315.25 to cover what was paid."

The presiding commissioner confirmed that there were at least two complaints made against him to Human Resources last week.

Merrell says he has not recused himself or his office from the investigation and that it would be unethical for him to even speculate on what, if any, charges could result from the investigation.

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