Sports authority quickly gets a new member

Steve Bough was 15 minutes late to his first meeting of the Jackson County Sports Complex Authority, but cut him a break. He’d only learned of his appointment three-quarters of an hour before the Tuesday afternoon meeting was to start.

“The governor’s office called me at 1:15 and I got over here as fast as I could,” Bough said.

The speed of Bough’s appointment was unusual. It typically takes weeks or months to hear back from Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s office on appointees to the board that oversees expenses at the Truman Sports Complex.

Yet less than 24 hours passed between the time Bough and two others were nominated by the Jackson County Legislature and Bough’s appointment.

“It’s amazing how fast government can move sometimes,” said Calvin Williford, the top aide to County Executive Mike Sanders.

Though maybe not so amazing when one considers that Sanders, head of the state Democratic Party, has been pushing hard locally and in Jefferson City to gain greater influence over the sports authority, a state body with close financial ties to county government.

Williford declined to say whether Sanders put in a call to urge quick action. But it’s no secret that Sanders was in a hurry to get a replacement for J. Beto Lopez, whose reappointment Sanders opposed. He said Lopez and some other members of the authority had failed to be tough watchdogs of taxpayer money when reviewing expense vouchers that the Chiefs and Royals submit for reimbursement.

Lopez denied he was a rubber stamp and said Sanders was more interested in gaining control of the board for political advantage. Commissioner Deron Cherry likewise called Sanders’ accusations political.

“I do take offense when I’m called a knucklehead in the press,” Cherry said at Tuesday’s meeting. “And I take offense when people get thrown under the bus.”

Criticism of the board’s handling of expenses surfaced last week on sports talk radio and quickly spread through the media, largely based on an annual expense report the Royals submitted recently.

At its next meeting, the board intends to take a deeper look at how the teams are spending millions of state and local tax dollars out of the so-called RMMO account — which stands for repairs, maintenance, management and operations.

No one alleges illegality, but Sanders and others believe too much is going to management and operations and too little to repairs and future maintenance.

For instance, it won’t be long, he said, before the Kauffman Stadium video board needs replacing.

“That’s millions of dollars, but there aren’t millions (set aside) in that account,” Sanders said in an interview.