Harrisonville waited a long time for the state audit report, and though it took far too long, cost our citizens far too much money ($70,000) and placed a huge burden on city staff, we need to look at the positives.
First, we now know where our city needs to improve, and I can assure you I will be working diligently to address every shortcoming the audit identified. I believe other city leaders and staff will be doing the same, and in that sense the audit provides an opportunity for us to work more cooperatively with one another so we can all focus on the future, not the past.
Second, we need to understand that some of the issues identified in the audit have already been addressed or will be addressed before the auditor’s staff returns for its required follow-up.
Third, we should be pleased that the audit did not uncover any fraud, missing money or anything of a criminal nature.
We clearly need to improve our processes and systems in certain areas, especially being more transparent in the areas of economic development, the way funds are managed, adherence to the Sunshine Law and our hiring and purchasing practices.
I have worked very hard to make city government more open and transparent, and efforts to shut me down on this (committee appointments, Town Hall meetings, etc.) are well-documented. I will continue to fight for equity, transparency and openness in city government. I am hopeful the mayor will now lay down his “command and control” style of leadership which only works to create division in our community. I believe it is past time to include all eight aldermen in meetings and decisions that affect our city. I believe the state audit he championed requires it and that you deserve it.
Finally, we should understand the auditor’s report was not an economic analysis or a judgment about whether development tools and tax incentives are worth it for taxpayers. When you evaluate incentives, you have to look at both the costs and the benefits. The audit only looked at the costs. A true economic analysis would have balanced the costs against the benefits: did these projects create more jobs, attract more residents to our community to spend their money, improve our roads and infrastructure, and so on. Most would have to say the net benefit to Harrisonville has been positive.
And that’s where I want to end — on a positive note. I’m happy the audit is completed, and glad for the chance to use it in way to build bridges and cooperation. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss any of this further.