Auditor awaits legal review of his involvement in Annex purchase process

Before a majority of the Clay County Commission approved spending $2 million Aug. 28 for approximately seven acres of land for the future site of a new Annex, Clay County Auditor Victor S. Hurlbert told commissioners it was his understanding of Missouri state statutes that he must certify the land purchase expenditures associated with the contract before any payments for the land can be dispersed. Without his certification, Hurlbert said, the contract is not legally binding.

CLAY COUNTY — County Auditor Victor S. Hurlbert said he is waiting on Clay County’s legal counsel team to review his opinion of Missouri statutes before deciding whether his office needs to take further and possible legal action to make sure the appropriate due diligence is done by the county before moving forward with execution of a contract to buy land for a new Annex.

Before a majority of the commission approved spending $2 million Aug. 28 for approximately seven acres of land for the future site of a new Annex near the intersection of Missouri Highway 152 and North Brighton Avenue in Kansas City, Hurlbert told commissioners it was his understanding of Missouri state statutes that his office must certify the land purchase expenditures associated with the contract before any payments can be dispersed. Without his certification, Hurlbert said, the contract is not legally binding.

In his public comments before the commission, Hurlbert questioned the contract with Beck-CAL LLC’s legality and the county’s ability to pay. After the meeting, Hurlbert said he planned to audit the contract.

“The county isn’t obligated to uphold that payment, so I’d be concerned for the seller on the county coming through on that, especially down the road if it comes back that this wasn’t a legitimate deal,” he said.

After learning of Hurlbert’s concerns and commission action at the Aug. 28 meeting, County Treasurer Bob Nance said his office would not release payment disbursements associated with the land purchase without the auditor’s certification.

“I’m not even going to make the check until the county auditor has told me it has all been done properly,” Nance told the Courier-Tribune.

Nance said based on his understanding of state law, his office is not required to release payments in the matter unless the auditor’s office certifies the contract.

“I think (the commission) would have to threaten me or hire a lawyer to force me to make that payment,” he said when asked if the commission or county budget office could circumvent the treasurer’s office in seeking payment distribution and moving the purchase process forward. “... Vic quoted the statute pretty well, so I stand with him on that.”

After Hurlbert raised his concerns Aug. 28, Western Commissioner Gene Owen asked county counselors from firm Husch Blackwell in attendance if the county could move forward legally. Attorney Ryan Harding said the commission could legally vote to approve or reject the contract but that more research needed to be done before he could provide an opinion on the auditor’s responsibility in certifying the contract after the fact.

“I’m not in a position to give an opinion on that. With regard to the commission vote, I do believe it is fine for the commission to take a vote today,” he told Owen.

In a familiar result of commissioner votes, the purchase agreement was passed 2-1, with Presiding Commissioner Jerry Nolte being the dissenting vote.

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