“What I am hoping is what we can get a state audit in here and the results of that state audit — do I think any money is missing? No. Do I think we’re doing a whole bunch of crap wrong? Yup, and we’re going to fix it.”
One way or another, the government of Camden County appears headed for a comprehensive audit conducted by the Missouri State Auditor’s Office for the first time since the county was designated first class in 1997.
Presiding Commissioner Greg Hasty said on April 12, 2017 that a vote of the commissioners to request an audit will be scheduled for next week. It appears that meeting will happen on Tuesday as four agenda sheets were sent out Friday morning by the Commissioner’s Office to notice meetings for April 19 and 20 with no official business scheduled for April 17 and 21. Though those meeting agendas could be revised next week.
The agenda for Tuesday’s meeting will need to be noticed by 10 a.m. Monday, April 17, 2017 if the commissioners plans to hold the vote the next day at the regularly scheduled meeting time in accordance with the Missouri Sunshine Law.
“We’ve been working behind the scenes at the State Auditor’s Office and we’ve got something on the agenda next week and there’s going to be a vote,” Hasty said on Wednesday. “What I am hoping is what we can get a state audit in here and the results of that state audit — do I think any money is missing? No. Do I think we’re doing a whole bunch of crap wrong? Yup, and we’re going to fix it.”
According to Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway, there are three ways for a first class county without a charter form of government, like Camden, to be audited by the state. A petition filed by registered voters, at the request of the governor, or at the official request of the county commission.
In order for the state to decide if the auditor’s office should undertake the commitment of time and resources required, the commission would need to follow specific criteria. Galloway’s office confirmed that there was an inquiry in December of last year from Camden County but there has been no follow up until recently.
According to a letter addressed to Hasty by Galloway dated March 28, 2017, “It has come to my attention that the Camden County Commission is considering requesting my office to conduct an audit of Camden County. Should the Commission decide to make such a request. I am writing this letter outlining the process.”
The letter states Galloway’s office must receive an ordinance or resolution by the county commission requesting an audit for the county government as a whole or a specific office. Before that occurs, the commission would need to hold an open meeting, legally noticed and posted in accordance with the Missouri Sunshine Law, and pass a motion.
The documentation of that meeting, including minutes, would then need to be provided to Galloway’s office with the ordinance or resolution for the audit. Once that takes place, Galloway said it is up to the discretion of her office if they move forward.
Undertaking the type of audit the state would perform is significantly different than the financial statement audit the county is required to have done annually by a certified auditing firm hired by the commission.
First and foremost, Galloway said her staff would look at the county’s compliance with the Missouri Sunshine Law. Once the audit is complete, the auditor’s staff present the findings and make recommendations.
The county would them be given an opportunity to address any issues the audit raised and respond. The process would be completed when the audit report was turned over to the public.
Galloway said it can be a lengthy process but once completed, provides a very clear understanding of how the county is performing and managing taxpayers money. The audit is required to be paid for by the county and depends on many factors such as scope of the audit, number and severity of audit findings, as well as the availability of documents, according to Galloway’s letter.
On March 10, 2017, a group of approximately 10 citizens met with Presiding Commissioner Greg Hasty and Second District Commissioner Don Williams about the lack of perceived transparency occurring within the courthouse.
The citizens successfully lobbied the commission to approve a motion that essentially began the process of undergoing a comprehensive audit by the State of Missouri Auditor’s Office or by a private, independent firm without any connections to Camden County but with experience auditing first class counties.
Both commissioners agreed with the citizens in that an audit was necessary and needed, promising to pursue both avenues regardless of costs.
Towards the end of March and the beginning of April, some of the citizens who met with the commissioners began circulating a citizens petition to request an audit from Galloway’s office. The petition has been available at several local businesses and has been shared several times on community Facebook groups.
According to the official petition, is it estimated a state audit could cost between $100,000 to $150,000, or more, based on previous audits of first class counties.
In order for the state auditor to accept the petition, a total of 2,273 signatures of registered voters living in Camden County would be required. The citizens group is hoping to collect 4,000 or more in the next three months.
Editors Joyce Miller and Amy Wilson contributed reporting.