Government & Politics

Missouri auditor begins review of Jackson County finances, starts with anti-crime tax

Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway speaks to The Kansas City Star editorial board

Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway speaks to The Kansas City Star editorial board about the upcoming election.
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Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway speaks to The Kansas City Star editorial board about the upcoming election.

Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway announced Thursday that she’s started her long-awaited review of Jackson County government’s finances and operations.

Jackson County Executive Frank White first asked for Galloway’s assistance last January in the midst of a budget dispute with a majority of county legislators. But only the legislature has the power to request a state audit and did so the following month, citing a number of issues related to White’s management of county money.

Among those concerns was the legislature’s contention that, in some cases, money budgeted for one thing was being used to pay for something else.

Another criticism was that White and his staff had authorized dozens of contracts for professional services without putting them out for competitive bid.

Galloway has spent several months laying the foundation for her work by speaking to public officials and taxpayers, she said in a news release. The common theme of their concerns was how tax dollars were being spent.

The focus of the first of what will be more than one performance audit: the county’s program to battle drug abuse and violent crime commonly known as COMBAT.

The acronym is short for the Community Backed Anti-Crime Tax, which voters approved nearly 30 years ago. That quarter-cent sales tax was last renewed in 2016 and raises roughly $20 million a year, most of which is dispensed to a variety of law enforcement and social service agencies.

Over White’s objections, the legislature passed an ordinance early this year transferring authority over COMBAT from the county executive to the county prosecutor, a move that voters ratified by approving a charter amendment on Nov. 6.

Galloway said her goal will be to determine whether the program’s operations are in accordance with “state law, local ordinances and best practices.”

Later, Galloway said she will review the county’s budgeting and procurement practices, as well as how it awards and administers contracts with outside vendors.

Jackson County taxpayers will pay the bill for the audit.

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