OLATHE, Kan. — More than a week after a FOX4 report exposed a large amount of taxpayer dollars missing from the Johnson County Courthouse, county leaders say they’re still looking for answers.
On Thursday, Deputy County Manager Maury Thompson briefly spoke to the board of county commissioners (BOCC) about the investigation.
“There is, as you [Eilert] stated, a fundamental lack of understanding when we refer to the Johnson County District Courts,” Thompson said.
In the state of Kansas, there are 31 judicial districts. Johnson County is represented by the 10th judicial district. Thompson explained judicial districts often include multiple counties. But because of the large population in Johnson County, it is the only county represented in the 10th district, and the district is often referred to as the Johnson County District Court.
“Counties have responsibility in Kansas to provide the building, i.e. the courthouse; to provide equipment and supplies in order for the courts to effectively carry out their responsibilities. We also have a responsibility to cover what we call statutory fees,” Thompson said.
Individual counties have the option to provide additional funds beyond the financial commitment required by the state.
“In Johnson County, we do that to a limited degree by funding a number of employees in the court system, among some other things,” Thompson said. “I want to stress that it is a partnership with the judicial branch. This is not a function of Johnson County government.”
Thompson said with the ongoing investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment beyond the previous statement provided by Johnson County Court Administrator.
Commissioner Charlotte O’Hara questioned when the county commission would be provided with information on the investigation.
“I realize that we are in the middle of an investigation, but it’s my understanding that there is a great possibility that there are some county funds that are part of this. If so, how are we going to find out?” O’Hara asked.
Thompson said the county will be updated when the investigation report becomes public.
“These issues of missing money (are) extremely troubling to me. I’m hopeful we can focus more on financial audits rather than performance audits on our county departments,” O’Hara said.
O’Hara said she would like the county to conduct a financial audit of wastewater contracts and payments as the county puts large amounts of funds toward upgrades to the Tomahawk and Nelson wastewater treatment facilities.
“Johnson County wastewaters is a critically important service and we are having to keep up with a lot of federal expectations that quite frankly are costly. Not to mention the aging of the system, it’s very expensive,” Commissioner Michael Ashcraft said. “We are projecting out over the next five years, at least, at pretty much a constant five percent increase. That raises a lot of questions from constituents of that service.”
BOCC Chair Ed Eilert said a financial audit of county government will be presented to the commission for full discussion at a later date.
“I had a meeting with our external auditor, who does the financial audits of activities and departments in Johnson County and will be receiving that report in the not too distant future,” Eilert said.