Frank White calls for COMBAT report to be retracted after audit finds misused funds

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KANSAS CITY, Mo — The Jackson County Executive is under the microscope for tax dollars to fight violent crime and drug programs, money an audit by CPA firm BKD discovered was spent elsewhere.

For the first time Friday, Frank White has returned fire, demanding the audit be retracted.

In his latest statement since the audit’s release Wednesday, White said county staff found dozens of errors in the audit.

In January, after a long and expensive legal battle, the Jackson County Legislature moved oversight of COMBAT from County Executive Frank White to Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, who ordered the audit.

As the back and forth continues, the organizations who should have gotten the money want to know why they didn’t.

“I feel like I’m not getting complete answers,” said Presiding Judge of the 16th Circuit Court David Byrn.

The Jackson County Court is a recipient of COMBAT funds. Byrn said he has been asking the Jackson County Administration what’s going on in regard to that money since rumblings of misuse surfaced earlier this year.

“Based on the County’s numbers indicating that from 2013 thru 2018, the court had not received about $1.6 million in that time frame that were coming in,” Byrn said. “That should have been allocated for our own usage.”

Programs like drug court, parent mentoring and programs targeting at risk youth have been slashed due to lack of money.

“The frustration is related to the fact that COMBAT is a very specific tax for a specific purpose, and when those funds come in for that specific purpose, they ought to be allocated for that specific purpose,” Byrn said.

COMBAT Director Vince Ortega called it a scam.

He receives a budget each year from the County Finance Department and allocates it to the 10 organizations that benefit from COMBAT. Finding out the Jackson County Administration was holding back millions of dollars is, at the least, disappointing.

“We didn’t know that the County Auditor was being paid $180,000 out of COMBAT, that had been annually,” Ortega said. “There is a lot of law enforcement that depends on this funding, and realizing now and back then, a lot more money could have been used in the drug enforcement and now the violence component of it.”

FOX4 has been unsuccessful in our attempts to interview White and his Chief Administrative Officer Edwin Stoll. But in a statement released Friday, White claimed there are inaccuracies in the audit.

“BKD said there’s no inaccuracies. The numbers that were there are numbers that were provided to them by the Finance Department, which is under the County Executive,” Ortega said.

In White’s statement, he included a letter written to BKD managing partner Abe Cole. Read the full letter here.

In response, Peters Baker and Ortega issued the following statement:

“In our own meeting this afternoon with BKD, BKD confirmed that the only specific alleged inaccuracy identified by County Executive Frank White’s office was information given to them by the County Executive’s office. So any error would be the County Executive’s error.

“BKD was always aware that the report was being released once it was final because it was a public record regarding public funds. We advised them it would be released within days of it becoming final. And we made clear it would be released without redactions. We also advised them once the report was released.

“It was important to the integrity of this report that other county departments were not given the opportunity to scrub, redact or delay this report, as has been practiced in some county departments.

“You should be reminded that the County Executive’s office heavily redacted a consultant’s report on the poor conditions at the Jackson County Detention Center and sought to seal documents that supported a grand jury’s report on conditions at the jail.

“We will review any other specific allegations of any error with our auditors.”

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