After losing his bid to stay on the Jackson County Sports Complex Authority board on Monday, chairman J. Beto Lopez grumbled that “Mike Sanders won.”
Sanders, the county executive, has been critical of Lopez’s eight-year tenure, accusing him and others on the board of rubber-stamping millions of dollars in expenses submitted by the Royals and the Chiefs. Sanders questions whether some of those expenditures are a prudent use of tax dollars, even if they are allowed under terms of the leases signed by the teams and the county.
In replacing Lopez, Sanders said he hopes to install someone who he sees as a more aggressive watchdog of tax spending.
“It’s clear that we need a change at the Jackson County Sports Authority,” Sanders said in an interview following a meeting of the Jackson County Legislature, which settled on a list of three names to submit to Gov. Jay Nixon, who decides which of them will fill the five-year term.
The nominees are former Jackson County Prosecutor Al Riederer, former state Rep. Brian Yates and Stephen R. Bough, a trial attorney. Yates is a Republican. The two others are Democrats.
Since becoming county executive in 2007, Sanders has been frustrated by his inability to influence how tax dollars are funneled through the sports authority to the teams and the contractors that renovated the stadiums at the Truman Sports Complex. Despite its name, the sports authority is a state agency that operates independently of county government.
So the nominating process is the only role Sanders and the legislature have in influencing its administration. That and the bully pulpit, which Sanders has been pounding lately after being unable to negotiate a deal that would restrict how the teams use their share of money that’s supposed to be used for stadium maintenance and repairs.
However, language in the lease also allows them to use funds for operating expenses. The Royals have gone so far as to request reimbursement for payroll taxes, which caused a furor in local media last week.
Lopez said he and other commissioners were unfairly tarnished in the fray.
“Everything we do,” he told legislator before failing to make the cut, “is above board and transparent.”