Cost of Franco investigation: More than $72,000

Kansas City’s investigation into the residency of a municipal judge cost taxpayers $72,629, according to documents provided to The Kansas City Star through a Missouri Sunshine Law request.

Manned surveillance of Municipal Judge Elena Franco was provided by investigators with Clarence Kelley and Associates, and their invoices totaled $33,625.

Four surveillance cameras mounted on utility poles were provided by Sur-Tec, in the Clarence Kelley group of companies, and the city paid $39,004 for them, according to documents from Internal Auditor Roy Greenway.

The cameras are now being used by the Neighborhood and Community Services Department to catch illegal dumping suspects.

Greenway declined to comment about the cost of the investigation, and other city officials could not be reached Friday, which was a holiday at City Hall.

The surveillance of Franco was conducted from June 6 through Aug. 5 after the city had received allegations that Franco was violating the city’s residency requirement. She was suspended from her position Aug. 22, and a citizens’ commission is now weighing the evidence against her.

In an internal audit report summarizing the surveillance evidence, Greenway noted that the city realized its investigation of a municipal judge was not a routine investigation of a city employee.

“The departure from our normal investigation process was made to ensure we gathered sufficient, credible, reliable information in a timely manner,” Greenway wrote.

Franco owns a home in Clay County, within the city limits of Kansas City and has said that is her official residence. Her husband owns and resides at a home in Platte County, outside the city limits. Franco and her husband have said she has provided overwhelming evidence that she has complied with the city’s residency requirement.

According to Greenway’s internal audit report, suveillance showed Franco went to her Clay County home on work days and stayed there long enough to change in and out of work clothes, but spent most of her non-work hours, including all but one of 41 nights, at her husband’s home in Platte County.

The report also said the surveillance showed Franco worked at Municipal Court an average of about 30 hours per week, while city ordinance requires a standard of at least 40 hours per week.

Franco has issued a statement saying that the internal auditor’s report intentionally misstated both the facts and the law.

A municipal judicial nominating commission is expected to meet next week to determine whether sufficient credible evidence exists to forward charges to the city council calling for Franco’s removal from the bench.

To reach Lynn Horsley, call 816-234-4317 or send email to lhorsley@kcstar.com.