Jackson County legislators accuse Executive’s Office of manipulating report on new jail

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INDEPENDENCE, Mo — The strained relationship between the Jackson County Legislature and the Jackson County Executive’s Office was on display Monday.

The legislative session in Independence got heated. The disagreement is over a report recommended specifications for a new county jail.

The word trust was front and center at the Jackson County legislative meeting, and it turns out there wasn’t a lot of it in the room.

“I don’t like being called a liar,” Jackson County Executive Frank White said in front the legislative body.

Jackson County paid consulting firm Shive Hattery $250,000 for a report recommending the size, location and other details of a new jail. But legislators said they received a modified version of that report, manipulated by the county executive’s office.

“I called Shive Hattery, and I said, ‘We have got this report. It’s 50 pages. How come it was cut down?” Jackson County Legislative Chair Theresa Galvin said. “I was told that someone from the county executive’s office told them to do it.”

The legislature said 60 pages were missing, 12 action items excluded and parts of the report were changed from the original report legislators found out about last week.

“We don’t know, like I said, what we can trust out of that report and what we can’t trust.” Galvin said.

White said the report given to the legislators was the public version of the report. His office notified legislators that they could view the full report in the county counselor’s office. It’s being held there because parts of the report having to do with security and other items are not for public knowledge.

“If in fact they told the legislature about it, you would think there would be some sort of email or something they could point to because none of the legislators knew anything about a redacted, changed report,” County Legislator Dan Tarwater said.

Legislators questioning the report believe the county executive’s office worked with the consulting firm to change the report and support White’s desire for a smaller jail because he believes a bigger jail will hurt poor people.

The consulting firm recommended 2,500 beds. There are now approximately 1,000 inmates in the Jackson County jail.

“I sat down with Frank and Caleb before I agreed to be chairman, and I said, you know, no more lies, no more hiding things. Let’s move forward and do this together as a team. And we have been until this report came out,” Galvin said. “For whatever reason they thought that was the correct way to handle it. I don’t agree with them, but I am still going to work with them and I have faith they will also.”

County legislators who don’t trust the Shive Hattery report said they will rely on previous reports, as well as the input of Sheriff Darryl Forte, Prosecutor Jean Peters-Baker and county judges, while putting together the plan for a jail everyone believes is an urgent need.

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