CLAY COUNTY — In a turn of events already seen by taxpayers once in the saga that has become the state audit of Clay County, a subpoena by Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway was issued Nov. 8 for county records.
An Oct. 24 court ruling confirmed the auditor’s legal authority to conduct performance audits and dismissed the County Commission’s lawsuit against the auditor. After the court ruling, the information being subpoenaed was again requested by auditors on Oct. 31. According to the auditor’s office, Clay County officials have yet to produce documentation originally requested in December 2018 and January 2019.
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“After the court ruling, the information being subpoenaed was again requested by auditors on Oct. 31. Additionally, auditors requested information routinely and readily provided in audits of county governments. Clay County officials have failed to fulfill the request, and their attorneys have said that responses will be delayed indefinitely,” states a release from Galloway’s office. “Given the past conduct of the county in evading the audit, the subpoena was issued to get answers on behalf of Clay County citizens.”
A statement Nov. 8 from Clay County, on letterhead from the Offices of Clay County Government but not signed by a specific member of staff or elected official, calls the auditor’s subpoena “completely unnecessary.”
“The county fully intends to comply in an appropriate manner. In fact, our staff had already conveyed to the auditor’s office that it would produce nearly all of the requested materials but needed more time given the auditor only provided seven days to produce thousands of pages of documents, and given that county staff are working to meet a Nov. 15 deadline to complete the 2020 budget,” the statement reads.
The county statement also questions why the county did not receive the auditor’s request for more information until Oct. 31.
“The auditor could have sought these records long ago, but unfortunately seems to have waited until it would serve her personal, political interests,” the statement reads.
The Nov. 8 subpoena commands Assistant County Administrator Nicole Brown or her representative to appear at the Fletcher Daniels State Office Building in Kansas City at 10 a.m. Monday, Nov. 25, to provide documents and testimony relating to a host of county records. Records required by the auditor under the subpoena include: payroll data and executive and open meeting meetings of the County Commission from 2017 and 2018; annual audit reports from 2018; detailed financial records from 2019; confirmation that the county is securing emails, user files and the computer from former Administrator Dean Brookshier; details on county bid policies and procedures in place between 2017 and now including policies regarding evaluation team selection, performing evaluations and making recommendations; a list of all employees with take-home vehicles; details about legal and lobbying firms contracted by the county including Fisher & Phillips LLP, Husch Blackwell, Johnston Law Firm, Morgan Pilate, Spencer Fane, Wyrsch Hobbs & Mirakian, Graves Garrett and Gaddy Law; policies and procedures effective from 2017 to now regarding the assessments appeal process and assessments and assessed valuations for all properties including those owned by the three commissioners for 2017 to now; expense reports for the tax maintenance fund for 2019; copies of the county collector’s collection agreements with other cities; all written parks department cash handling procedures from 2017 to present; and details on boat slips and rental agreements for 2018 to present.
Presiding Clay County Commissioner Jerry Nolte was unaware of the new subpoena until contacted by the Courier-Tribune Friday afternoon. Nolte, who has supported the audit since it was petitioned by county residents in 2018, said he assumes records being requested in the second subpoena are likely documents requested previously, before the majority of the commission excluding himself approved suing the auditor claiming she was overstepping her authority in her records requests.
“I think we should be complying without any unnecessary delay,” he said of the most recent subpoena.
In a previous interview with the Courier-Tribune, Eastern County Commissioner Luann Ridgeway said the county has asked since first filing a lawsuit against Galloway’s office, why the auditor is not continuing her work on the audit and combing through the hundreds of thousands of pieces of financial data she was already given by the county. Ridgeway said Galloway previously said her office’s work on the audit was continuing despite the lawsuit but then sent a letter to citizens saying it was stalled due to the lawsuit.
“Which is it? Was the audit continuing or was it not?,” the commissioner questioned, adding she thinks Galloway, who is running for governor, is using the county audit for political posturing.
In a letter to Ridgeway also sent to others in the community including media, Jason Withington, chief audit petitioner of the county audit, questioned how residents can trust Ridgeway, who recently brought up a discussion about transitioning to a charter form of government, in light of the second subpoena.
“How (in) the world are we suppose to take you seriously about having an honest conversation regarding professional government when our current government, instituted by you, acts like this?,” he questioned. “If you wanted to, you could compel Assistant Count Administrator Nicole Brown and the attorneys at Spencer Fane to turn over the documents requested.”