Lathrop mayor in question after audit finds nearly $300K in taxpayer money stolen by wife

LATHROP, Mo. — The downtown water station was busy as people paid 25 cents for 45 gallons of fresh water in preparation for a long, hot weekend.

But the hottest topic in town wasn’t the weather. It was the controversy surrounding the city’s two-term mayor, Dean Langner.

“It’s totally surprising,” said Ron Minor, who said he’s met the mayor on numerous occasions.

Langner became the focus of conversation after a state audit was released Wednesday. His wife, Ava Langner, was accused of taking nearly $300,000 in taxpayer money from a special road district where she served as treasurer for 11 years before being fired last year.

According to the original audit, some of the stolen money “may have been used” for the two-term mayor’s “own construction company.”

But on Tuesday, the auditor corrected that claim. It revised the audit removing the name of the construction company. A spokeswoman for the auditor’s office said the company named in the original audit — J&D Construction — was not affiliated with the mayor or his wife, didn’t benefit from the theft and should never have been named in the original audit.

Employees at Lathrop City Hall said they haven’t seen the mayor, who’s not paid for his part-time position, for two days.

“It’s new information, and we are kind of taking it as it goes,” said City Administrator Bob Burns, who added that the city’s finances are separate from the road district’s and have far more checks and balances.

For those that live near Lathrop, the audit’s findings have been a shock, particularly in regards to the mayor.

“He’s a very personal guy,” Minor said. “I like him. My major dealing with the mayor has been this thing (the water station) not working. He told me, ‘I will personally make sure it’s working,’ and he did.”

Others question Langner’s continued role as mayor.

“I think it would cause some concern until the final answers are brought out,” Rick Cole said.

Those answers are expected to come once the FBI and the Missouri State Highway Patrol have finished their investigations.

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