Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway recently conducted an audit of the Clay County government, revealing significant mismanagement and controversial actions by two former county commissioners. This article highlights the key findings of the audit, sheds light on the citizens’ demand for change, and discusses the efforts made to restore faith and trust in the county government.
Mismanagement and Controversy
Auditor Nicole Galloway initiated the investigation into Clay County government in December 2018. During the audit, Galloway discovered that former commissioners Lou and Ridgeway actively hindered transparency by preventing taxpayers from accessing information about how funds were being utilized. This obstruction of public scrutiny sparked public outrage and a demand for change.
The Citizen’s Call for Change
One of the citizens who propelled Galloway’s attention four years ago was Jason Whittington. Seeking to advocate for accountability, Whittington voiced the citizens’ dissatisfaction with the previous administration, giving them a poor rating. The aim was to instill faith and trust in the county government, which had been eroded by the actions of the former commissioners.
Efforts to Restore Faith and Trust
As the investigation unfolded, Commissioner Jerry Nolte emerged as a key figure. Nolte, who was present during the investigation and continues to serve as the presiding commissioner, actively voted against the actions of the previous members of the commission. The new commissioners, who assumed office in early 2021, have taken steps to steer the county back on course.
Cooperation with the Auditor’s Office
The current commissioners demonstrated a commitment to transparency and cooperation during the audit. They readily provided all requested information to the best of their ability, ensuring that the audit process progressed smoothly. This collaborative effort aimed to rebuild trust between the government and the citizens of Clay County.
Financial Mismanagement Uncovered
The audit conducted by Galloway’s office shed light on several instances of financial mismanagement within the Clay County government. Notably, the county incurred nearly $3 million in costs for a project known as the Clay County annex, which was ultimately canceled. The audit revealed that minimal public input was sought during the decision-making process, causing concerns about the allocation of taxpayers’ funds.
Generous Salaries and Severance Packages
Another troubling revelation from the audit was the extent of generous salary increases and severance packages provided to the former county administrator and three assistants. These questionable expenditures further eroded public trust and drew attention to potential misuse of taxpayer dollars.
While Galloway’s findings exposed mismanagement and financial irregularities, they do not suggest criminal actions by the former commissioners. It is unlikely that Lou and Ridgeway will face legal consequences for their actions, as clarified by Galloway. However, the impact of their decisions and management style has been felt by the citizens of Clay County.
The audit conducted by State Auditor Nicole Galloway has brought to light significant mismanagement and lack of transparency in the Clay County government. The actions of former commissioners Lou and Ridgeway have raised concerns among citizens and led to a demand for change. Efforts have been made by the current commissioners to restore faith and trust in the government, demonstrating a commitment to transparency and cooperation with the audit process. As Clay County moves forward, the hope is that these revelations serve as an opportunity for improvement and responsible governance.