The mud is flying as Republican incumbent Lydia McEvoy and former Clay County presiding commissioner Tom Brandom fight for the job of Clay County collector.
McEvoy, who is finishing her first four-year term, said she’d like to stick around to finish some projects, including a software upgrade. But Brandom, the Democrat, said he’s worried about her spending as auditor.
“I am pleased that Ms. McEvoy has upgraded the software in her office,” he said. “It should have been done a long time ago. But I have been disturbed by her personal financial situation, her demands on the County Commission, and her extravagant spending habits.”
He doesn’t agree with a special fund McEvoy set up to pay for and implement new software.
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“To collect taxes for the cities in Clay County, 1 percent goes into the general fund. As part of her agreement to collect these taxes for the cities, Ms. McEvoy required 50 percent of that amount to be allocated to budgets that she controls,” Brandom said. “One of these accounts is a ‘special fund’ that bypasses the county’s accounting system.”
McEvoy responded that no fund bypasses the county auditing system, and the commission agreed to split money with her so she could save for a software upgrade and not have to ask for funds.
“I have stronger statutory control over my fund than other office holders,” she said. “But the commission and I work together.”
Brandom also criticized McEvoy for paying a law firm $14,022 from the fund to help oppose a proposed charter revision that would have eliminated her elected position. And, he said, McEvoy asked the lawyers to use her private email for correspondence about the issue. Brandom labeled the move “improper.”
McEvoy said she hired legal counsel, not to fight the proposal, but to help her entire office after some cities threatened to sue her, personally, if the charter passed and she didn’t collect their taxes.
“The status of the collector’s office was very unclear,” she said. “What we were supposed to collect was very unclear.”
McEvoy also said that since it was a legal matter, the communication was privileged and did need to be in her professional email.
“Everything in my work email address was public,” she said. “So I decided let’s keep these in a whole separate account. If something is subject to privilege, it’s a good idea to keep it separate so it’s not accidentally disclosed when it’s not meant to be disclosed.”
She said that it’s not atypical for a fund to be used to defend the status of the office and that she has a legal opinion on file that support this.
McEvoy said another reason she’d like a second term is to finish working with the collectors of Missouri to revise and clarify the law on tax sales.
Both candidates mentioned the need for professionalism in Clay County government.
“I’d like to see the elected offices held by people that are dedicated specifically to Clay County, and to the jobs they are elected to do,” McEvoy said.
Brandom is concerned about it on all levels.
“Clay County has trouble getting good candidates to run for office and get re-elected,” he said. “With Pam Mason’s defeat in the primary, and her followers in disarray, things might get better.”
Though running for collector, Brandom wants to see changes across the board and said the county needs better representation and a more efficient governmental structure.
“I have proposed a five-member County Commission with all elected offices bipartisan as the first step — with rules for how the charter could be changed every 10 years,” he said. “As small as this seems, this could pass. It would make a huge difference in the short term, and have a greater impact each time the charter is modified.”
REPUBLICANLydia H. McEvoy
Address: 1409 N.E. 102nd Terrace, Kansas City
Occupation: Clay County collector of revenue
Education: Law degree, Ohio Northern University; bachelor’s in pre-law, Clearwater Christian College
Previous public experience: Clay County collector of revenue, 2011-present; business development officer with the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, 2005-2006; labor counsel for the state of New Jersey, 2003
DEMOCRATThomas (Tom) M. Brandom
Address: 1025 Blueberry Lane, Liberty
Occupation: IT business analyst/accountant/administrator
Education: Bachelor’s in business administration, University of North Texas; bachelor’s in accounting,William Jewell College
Previous public experience: Current deputy for the Clay County auditor; chief deputy for the Platte County clerk, 2011; Clay County clerk, 2007-2011; Clay County presiding commissioner, 1995-2003; administrative assistant to the Clay County Commission, 1975-1979