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State auditor issues subpoena to Clay County

Posted at 3:11 PM, Jan 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-31 23:40:45-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Citing delays and roadblocks, Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway Thursday issued a subpoena to Clay county, forcing them to release documents in an on-going audit.

The audit, generated after residents submitted thousands of signatures as part of a petition, seeks data that Galloway’s office has routinely used performing audits of other Missouri counties.

"My auditors are requesting basic information, and there is no reason why it should be this difficult,” Galloway said in a release. “Citizens asked for an audit of their government because they wanted answers about the operations of their county. I will use the full authority of my office to ensure they get the answers they deserve."

On the same day as receiving the subpoena, the Clay County Commission filed a lawsuit against Galloway that Galloway says is to prevent her from conducting a review.

"The Clay County Commission's legal action today seeks to silence the voices of thousands of its own citizens who asked for their government to be audited. More concerning is the idea that Clay County taxpayer dollars could be used to prevent an audit these same taxpayers requested," Galloway said in a statement.

In a statement sent out Thursday evening, the Clay County Commission said it filed the lawsuit to protect taxpayers from paying for Galloway's "unconstitutional actions" and accused her of using bullying tactics.

The commission claims it moved quickly to hand over all protected documents but that Galloway later requested things protected under attorney-client privilege. The commission accused Galloway of filing the subpoena in retaliation after the commissioners asked for a judge's guidance on handing over the documents.

Following the developments on Thursday, an organizer of the audit petition said the subpoena added to his concerns about the county government.

“We’ve had questions about the operation of the county government and how our money is being spent,” said resident Jason Withington, who said organizers gathered around 9,000 signatures from residents. “Everything was going smoothly until today when subpoenas were served and then a counter lawsuit.”

After the announcement of the lawsuit, Withington told 41 Action News that the proceedings would slow down the audit process.

“I think it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars,” he said. “We already have concerns about how our money is being spent.”

With the future of the audit now uncertain, Withington hoped answers would come soon for the area.

“This does not help restore our faith in them,” he said. “We need to restore the faith and trust that citizens have in our county government.”

The full statement from the Clay County Commissioners can be read below:

Earlier today the Clay County Commission served Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway with a lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment determining the scope of her constitutional authority. The Commission took this action to protect County tax payers from footing the bill for the Auditor’s unconstitutional actions. The Missouri Constitution is a sacred document that outlines the obligations and limitations of statewide elected officials. It is the duty of individuals and organizations to challenge government officials who seek to expand their power beyond those granted to them by the state constitution. The County has been very cooperative with the State Auditor’s staff. Despite the Auditor only beginning this audit last month (almost four months after voters asked for it), Clay County personnel have moved quickly in turning over all of the financial records related to the County’s accounts. This production comprises more than 300,000 lines of transactions to date, and County personnel remain committed to each office’s review and improvement of internal controls. Despite this prompt and thorough cooperation, Auditor Nicole Galloway has made an extraordinary and invasive request for attorney-client privileged information of the County. This information includes personnel records of individual employees, confidential contract negotiations and legal advice in pending lawsuits against Clay County taxpayers. To divulge this information to third parties would put Clay County taxpayers in a disastrous legal position. The State Auditor has previously been forced into constitutional compliance by the courts in Farmer v Kinder, Missouri Banker’s Association v Schweich and Weaver, State Auditor v. Joint Committee on Legislative Research, and Schweich v Nixon. After informing counsel for the Auditor that the County would seek Court guidance on this constitutional issue, the State Auditor immediately issued a subpoena for appearance and records by a county employee. It would appear to the casual observer that this is retaliation for asking the Auditor to respect the Constitution of the State of Missouri. Beyond this subpoena, the Auditor issued a series of misleading press releases which are far from the professional process that taxpayers expect of their From the Offices of the Clay County Commission Clay County, Missouri 1 Courthouse Square Liberty MO 64068 816-407-3650 elected officials. The Auditor now indicates the audit cost will increase for taxpayers—the County will take every step necessary to ensure that County taxpayers are not impacted by the Auditor’s decision to exceed her constitutional authority, and have specifically asked the Court to prevent her from doing so. These poorly considered decisions of the Missouri State Auditor come at no surprise to Clay County. In 2018, Auditor Nicole Galloway was asked by Clay County recuse herself due to extremely prejudicial statements indicating she had, prior to an audit, already determined that Clay County was at fault. She continues to use bullying tactics in an attempt to grab a blanket release of attorney client privileged and confidential personnel information. Clay County taxpayers deserve an audit that is in line with the Constitution of the State of Missouri and Missouri state laws. We will let a court decide the merits of both sides. In the meantime, we call upon Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway to cease her political rhetoric and adhere to the standards of governmental auditing with professionalism and impartiality.