Taxpayers covering bills for new law firms hired in Clay County administrators’ criminal investigation

CLAY COUNTY, Mo. -- Clay County taxpayers are now footing the bill for two new law firms and the attorneys hired to represent two assistant county administrators involved in a new criminal investigation.

FOX4 first broke our investigation into Clay County spending in February. Concerned citizens are gathering signatures to force the state auditor to look into possible misspending, including tens of thousands of dollars on outside law firms.

FOX4 has learned that, just days ago, Clay County hired two new attorneys to represent two high-ranking employees connected to an alleged assault that Liberty police are now investigating.

According to a police report, the incident occurred on April 27 at the Lowe's in Liberty where an assistant Clay County administrator allegedly assaulted a private citizen. He was at the Lowe's with another assistant county administrator, who is listed as a witness in the case.

These records show the county -- and ultimately taxpayers -- will pay the attorneys to represent the employees in this criminal investigation. FOX4 is not naming the employees because no one has been charged in the case and police are still investigating.

But Clay County Presiding Commissioner Jerry Nolte said he's not in favor of taxpayers footing the bill. He released the following statement to FOX4:

"I am absolutely opposed to taxpayers dollars being used to fund the defense of county employees against criminal charges. That is not the role of government, and I have a record of opposing that."

As far as the audit, the citizens group has exceeded the required number of signatures needed. They collect more than 1,000 at the polls on Tuesday. They're planning to turn them into the Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway later this month.