Audit finds conflict of interest for Ward Parkway Center renovations

Over $1.2 million paid without bid process

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A sign at the newly renovated south portion of Ward Parkway Center boasts, "The Center of It All."

The shopping mall is now at the center of a newly released state audit.

The audit raises concerns about a conflict of interest with companies selected to work on the project.

A Chicago based company owns the mall and hired Kansas City-based Legacy Development as the property manager and also the construction manager for the project.

But as the audit points out, all the board members of the special taxing district work for Legacy.

They include the director who approved more than $1.2 million to that company and its affiliates for construction management.

It happened without a competitive bidding process Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway said might have saved money.

Ultimately, shoppers at Ward Parkway Center are paying for that mall's expansion with an extra 1 percent sales tax on purchases there.

It's not the first time Galloway has called out special taxing districts for criticism.

In April she said they tend to have little oversight.

"Insiders have rigged the system against Missourians to take advantage of them," Galloway said in April.

An attorney for the Ward Parkway Center's taxing district points out the audit doesn't say the nearly $1.3 million in construction management payments were excessive or unreasonable.

He also said the taxing district board is proud of getting rid of a dangerous parking structure and putting up a new restaurant pavilion in its place.

Both Galloway and the taxing board's attorney said no laws were broken at Ward Parkway Center.

Galloway plans to conduct audits on special taxing districts statewide in Missouri.

She also wants to look at how laws can be changed to improve them.

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