CLAY COUNTY, Mo. — Clay County is fighting back as Missouri’s state auditor tries to complete an audit on the county’s spending.
The county commission filed a lawsuit Thursday against Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway, asking for a judge to rule on whether she has the constitutional authority to obtain certain documents she’s requesting.
Galloway issued a subpoena to Clay County on Thursday in an effort to obtain the necessary documents she needs to continue an audit.
Galloway said the county has not been cooperating and keeps delaying her requests for standard information.
“Within the first six weeks of this process, my team has encountered delays, roadblocks and evasive responses that make it challenging to complete audit work in a cost-effective way on behalf of the taxpayers of Clay County,” Galloway said in a news release. “My auditors are requesting basic information, and there is no reason why it should be this difficult. Citizens asked for an audit of their government because they wanted answers about the operations of their county. I will use the full authority of my office to ensure they get the answers they deserve.”
But the Clay County Commission argues the county has been very cooperative with the auditor’s staff and the information she’s requesting is private.
“Despite this prompt and thorough cooperation, Auditor Nicole Galloway has made an extraordinary and invasive request for attorney-client privileged information of the county,” the county said in a statement. “This information includes personnel records of individual employees, confidential contract negotiations and legal advice in pending lawsuits against Clay County taxpayers. To divulge this information to third parties would put Clay County taxpayers in a disastrous legal position.”
County Commissioner Jerry Nolte provided this statement to FOX4:
“I have been and remain in favor of the state audit initiated by the citizens of Clay County. In my opinion, county employees and officials should cooperate as fully as possible with the state auditors. The issues of a lack of cooperation raised in the Auditor’s letter are of serious concern to me, we should strive for the fullest disclosure and transparency possible in our stewardship of the people’s money. I will continue to advocate for responsible and open government.”
A group of concerned Clay County citizens pushed for an audit on the county government for months.
FOX4 first reported in February 2018 about the formation of a non-partisan group of citizens with questions about what they considered wasteful county spending and internal administrative procedures that don’t protect taxpayers.
In June, that group submitted more than 9,100 signatures to the state, seeking an audit of Clay County operations. The citizens group said every mayor in Clay County signed the petition as well as about 70 current or former elected leaders.
Galloway told FOX4 in June she planned to examine contract bidding processes, professional service contracts and county credit card spending. Those are among the concerns with which whistle-blowers have called her office to register complaints.
The audit was initially expected to take about one year to complete. It’s unclear whether that timeline will be pushed back.
The cost to taxpayers to conduct the audit is approximately $100,000 to $150,000. It could be more with the delays.
Petition organizers previously told FOX4 they hope to change county practices that they believe have resulted in wasteful spending, higher taxes and big pay raises for county commissioners and administrators.