Feb. 22, 2019 – The Clay County Commission recently asked a judge to stop the State Auditor from taking any action to enforce what the county said they describe as unconstitutional.
The press release said during the audit process, State Auditor Nicole Galloway’s demands and subpoenas for records have been out of her authority, as outlined in the Missouri Constitution.
“Instead of spending her time completing her audit, Auditor Galloway has neglected her constitutional duties in favor of seeking headlines,” the release said. “The State Auditor’s demands are arbitrary and unlawful. She has failed to offer a reasonable explanation for such demands.”
The demands county officials cited include the release of the County’s attorney-client privileged communications and medically sensitive employee data found in the minutes of the commission’s executive sessions. County officials said Galloway requested blanket access of all the minutes. Eastern Commissioner Luann Ridgeway said county officials offered Galloway minutes with all non-financial matters redacted, but Galloway refused.
The release goes on to state if the justice system allows Galloway to succeed, she will further exceed her constitutional authority by conducting a management audit, creating an unconstitutional financial burden for Clay County citizens.
Galloway said Clay County officials have not cooperated with the audit process.
“Within the first six weeks of this process, my team has encountered delays, roadblocks and evasive responses that make it challenging to complete audit work in a cost-effective way on behalf of the taxpayers of Clay County,” Galloway said.
County officials said they continue to cooperate with all legal requests from the State Auditor’s Office. They said they’ve turned over all financial transactions made in the past two years, including 300,000 lines of data and more than 1,300 pages of documents.
Presiding Commissioner Jerry Nolte said the several official communications from Clay County on the audit and the subsequent legal action concerns him. He said he finds the potentially misleading statements mischaracterizing his opinions as well as the hostile and confrontational language used in these communications disturbing.
Nolte said he did not authorize these statements, and does not agree with these statements. “I have consistently been in favor of the State of Missouri’s audit of Clay County,” he said.
“I support the county withdrawing the lawsuits and having a real dialogue with the state audit team on cooperating to facilitate an efficient and comprehensive audit. I did not have the opportunity to review the press releases and official statements on the state audit before they were distributed, nor was my input or opinion sought. I don’t know if the Associate Commissioners had the opportunity to approve these communications in advance. The views expressed in these official statements and press releases purported to represent actions and positions of the Clay County Commission do not represent my views.”
An official statement released by Clay County said while individual Commissioner opinions may not be identical, the County Commission acts as one government body.
“As court filings are public information, messaging need not be censored or delayed by any one part of the body. Any individual Commissioner is free to express his or her personal view, whether in agreement with the majority or not. Clay County is cooperating with the State Audit team within the boundaries of the Missouri Constitution.”
County officials said this Commission maintains no elected officeholder can operate above the law, including Galloway.
“The Commission again calls upon the State Auditor to hold true to her ethical and legal obligations to the citizens of the State of Missouri. The County continues to cooperate and proceed with the state audit, within the bounds of the law. Clay County respectfully requests the opinion of the Judicial branch of our government to protect Clay County taxpayers.”
Nolte said the county needs a comprehensive audit of county operations.
“The people expect and deserve open government and the responsible use of their tax money by elected officials, these issues in large part prompted citizens to demand this State Audit in the first place,” he said.