Raytown residents submit petition to Missouri auditor to begin quest for transparency

RAYTOWN, Mo. -- People in Raytown are one step closer to learning how their city works.

It's all thanks to a petition submitted to Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway. The stack of papers is giving some residents peace of mind after what they describe as a confusing series of events over the past few years.

"This is their job," chief petitioner Tony Jacob said. "This is what they're good at, and I know they can help Raytown."

Recently, 1,800 people signed and submitted their signatures to a petition that's been started numerous times but is now finally completed.

"I don't believe it's a step in the right direction," Jacob said. "I believe it's five steps in the right direction. Restoring trust in transparency and trust in government, finding efficiencies that's extremely important. That's what auditor Galloway is really good at."

"I sleep in Independence. I live here at my doughnut shop," Elisa Breitenbach said. She co-owns Doughboys Donut Shop in Raytown.

"At one time we have plenty of money to work with, then all the sudden we have no money, and then the next thing you know the aldermen and the police department are at odds with each other, and who really lost was the citizens of Raytown," Breitenbach said.

Last year, the city hit a budget crisis. A big tax break for Walmart left a $3 million hole in their budget.

"There should not be any mistake," Raytown Police Chief Jim Lynch said at a city meeting in September 2017. "A reduction of $3 million in the budget -- people are going to lose jobs."

Jacob decided it was time to get the story straight and put together the petition.

In a press release, Jacob states four points of allegations the people of Raytown are asking for Galloway to address in the audit.

Below is their list verbatim:

  1. Mismanagement of the police department. "In 2017, the city abruptly cut 25 positions from the police department, putting public safety at risk. The need for the cuts suggested that police leadership had allowed the department to become top heavy."
  2. Inadequate policies and procedures for time reporting. "The city's policies for staff to report their work time is ripe for abuse," the document stated. "City leaders, in fact, instituted a change to the policy after an engaged citizen raised questions."
  3. Hostile work environment. "Raytown was once seen as an attractive place to work for up-and-coming public administrators. But in the past three years, 2 city administrators and 5 department leaders have resigned," the document stated. "Current and former staff describe racial and gender discrimination, failures to follow internal policies, and the disciplining of employees who bring concerns to light."
  4. Lack of transparency. "In several instances requests for information from the city have been met with delays, denials and unreasonable price quotes. Records have been falsified," the document stated.

In a statement after the petition was submitted, City Administrator Damon Hodges said:

"Until we receive communication from the Missouri State Auditor's office, we are unable to comment further. City of Raytown staff will continue to focus on efficiency and addressing the concerns of it's citizens."

Breitenbach doesn't believe the city has addressed the concerns of its citizens but said she hopes the audit will.

"If something can really help you find out how to make your city work better, as it has in other cities, it's a wonderful thing," Breitenbach said. "It's a wonderful gift. It's a wonderful Christmas gift for Raytown."

FOX4 reached out to Galloway about the audit. Her office released the following statement:

"Auditor Galloway met with petitioners today to hear more about their concerns and accept the signatures they collected to compel an audit of the City of Raytown. Here’s some additional information on the petition audit process: https://auditor.mo.gov/auditinfo/petition."

The next step for the audit is for the signatures to be verified through Galloway's office. Jacob said they won't know the full cost of the audit until it's done, but he estimates it will be less than $75,000.