Audit shows millions of tax dollars misused by Jackson County anti-crime program

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- As Kansas City faces one of the worst violent crime rates in the country, a new report finds money to fight drugs and crime is being used for other things.

Starting in 1989, Jackson County voters have approved the quarter-cent "COMBAT" sales tax four times, with promises all the money would fight drug-related violence.

But results of an audit into the program suggests otherwise.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said she asked for the audit of COMBAT when her office fully took over the anti-crime program from the County Executive's Office in January.

"The audit found some disturbing practices of COMBAT. Now those have since ended," Peters Baker said.

BKD, a Kansas City CPA firm, began its forensic audit this spring. It looked at four years, 2014 to 2018.

Peters Baker said the audit found the county's finance department regularly under-reported money COMBAT generated, and the extra money was spent on other county operations.

Of $1.28 million in COMBAT reserves funds in 2017, only about $131,000 was spent on their programs, according to the audit.

"To see that tax dollars were going to basic maintenance and operation," Peters Baker said, "it's just not what it was for."

COMBAT's mission is to prevent and treat drug addiction and combat crime. Peters Baker said that's not where a lot of the money was being spent.

She said the audit shows more than $2.2 million in other money was spent between 2016 and 2018 on county jail doors and renovations of county facilities, and no one in COMBAT management knew about it.

Peters Baker said since her office took control, county salaries paid with COMBAT funds have decreased 45%.

"I am disappointed in government operations that allowed this type of management of COMBAT to occur," Peters Baker said. "Is there a singular person that’s responsible? There’s not. This covers a couple of different a couple of different administrations, and there are a lot of people that probably looked the other way that shouldn’t have."

Peters Baker said although the recent past is disappointing, the future of COMBAT looks positive.

"A variety of recommendations that were made in this audit are already in place. Others are going forward in the near future," Peters Baker said. "I've asked the legislature to hold us accountable by checking up on COMBAT and asking for updated reports about the recommendations to put them in place."

COMBAT is currently undergoing another audit by the state. Peters Baker said she is expecting those results by the end of this year.

FOX4 left multiple messages and e-mails with the Jackson County Executive's Office and COMBAT throughout the day, but those calls and e-mails haven't been returned.

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