Audit finds Independence Ave. improvement project lacks transparency

Posted at 5:56 PM, May 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-02 10:05:08-04

The Independence Avenue Community Improvement District (IACID) is at the center of a stinging audit report done by Kansas City, Missouri leaders after a number of issues were found with the group, including problems with the group's expense records.

The City Auditor's Office released the report last week and identified problems in 40% of the expense records for the group. The IACID receives over $700,000 in taxpayer money each year.

The audit can be viewed at the bottom of this story.

The CID was started in 2013 as a way to help improve safety, beauty, and business along Independence Avenue.

On Monday, Chairwoman Bobbi Baker-Hughes expressed shock at the tone of the audit.

"It broke my heart. It really did," she explained. "I think we've done well in addressing the nuisance crimes of the avenue. I think we've worked well in trying to beautify the avenue."

On top of expense record issues, the audit identified other problems, including payments and reimbursements not always supported by proper documentation, some payments made in error, and checks not signed by two individuals as required.

The report also called on the CID to be more transparent after auditors found board members not consistently complying with the Sunshine Law, resolutions not reflected in board minutes, and individuals who are not board members possibly voting during board meetings.

With the group continuing to grow after moving into a new office along Independence Avenue this year, Baker-Hughes said the CID would work towards improving.

"I've learned from the audit. I think that's what an audit is for," she explained. "Dotting the I's and crossing the T's. Those are important things in this business." 

Moving forward, Baker-Hughes said she and the board would work towards better handling taxpayer money.

"There needs to be some improvement on our end but I can assure the taxpayers that we are taking very good care of those dollars," she explained.

The Independence Avenue CID was the first community improvement district in KCMO to be audited by city officials.

In the audit, the City Auditor’s Office made several recommendations to improve the CID, including:

  • Getting another CPA to conduct annual audits of the CID
  • Having an outside review of internal controls
  • Improving minutes and templates for the group

“The recommendations we made should strengthen how the tax money is treated and if those are implemented, we believe the CID will be a much stronger organization,” explained KCMO City Auditor Doug Jones. “Handling public money is important and you have to do it right."

The Independence Avenue CID has six months to address the recommendations made by the City Auditor’s Office.

In the meantime, Baker-Hughes said she had started a committee to focus on problems brought up in the audit.