Updates include statements from Clay County and Presiding Commissioner Jerry Nolte.
According to a press release issued this week by the office of the State Auditor, a court issued an order today denying the Clay County Commission's request for a preliminary injunction.
"The Clay County Commission has repeatedly tried to stall this audit. With today's ruling, the audit citizens demanded will continue," the statement said.
As previously reported in the Feb. 22 edition of The Standard, the Clay County Commission asked a judge to stop the State Auditor from taking any action to enforce what the county said they describe as unconstitutional.
A press release issued in February by the county 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.”
In a press release issued Monday by Clay County, county officials said Galloway may have exceeded her constitutional authority by demanding records containing attorney-client privileged material.
“The Missouri State Constitution limits the authorities delegated to the State Auditor; ‘No duty shall be imposed on him by law which is not related to the supervising and auditing of the receipt and expenditure of public funds;’” the release said. “State Auditor Nicole Galloway and her Jefferson City legal team rejected all attempts of the County to find a reasonable compromise that does not violate the County’s attorney-client privileged information.”
County officials said the county remained responsive and accommodating to all requests for information that they said clearly fell within the boundaries of the State Auditor’s authority. Information county officials said they provided include approximately 300,000 county financial transactions, the allowance of spot access to cash deposits for auditors, the production of over two dozen employees for interviews by the auditors, a requested tour of all county facilities for auditors and private dedicated office space in a county building for all auditors to work.
Presiding Commissioner Jerry Nolte said he described the judge’s decision as a victory.
“Judge (Jon) Beetem has ruled against the county’s attempt to stop the Missouri Auditor’s subpoena related to the state audit of the county,” he said. “This is a victory for the people of Clay County and government accountability. I urge my fellow Commissioners to stop wasting time and taxpayer money on lawyers to thwart the will of the people. We should honor the hard work of so many dedicated individuals who brought this audit about. It is time for the County Commission to cooperare with the citizen mandated state audit of Clay County.”
Jason Withington with Citizens for a Better Clay County, the group who spearheaded the citizen petitioned audit said the organization describes the judge’s decision as “an unmitigated victory for the citizens of Clay County who have demanded this audit.”
“Furthermore, even if the County ‘had’ properly followed the administrative remedies as they were supposed to, the judge's order says they would not have won on the merits of their claim,” the prepared statement said. “This legal wrangling was a clear waste of taxpayer money going towards additional unjustified legal fees. They need to stop paying their crony-lawyer-friends, and start cooperating with the audit.”
County officials said Cole County Circuit Judge Beetem ruled because “enforcement of administrative subpoenas requires review by a circuit court, Petitioners' appear to have an adequate remedy at law.” They said this decision resolves only a question of timing rather than the merit of the Auditor’s subpoena.
“According to the ruling, the State Auditor lacks the authority to enforce a subpoena without an order of the court,” the release said. “Therefore, there was no need for the court to enter an additional injunction. Clay County awaits further opinions of the court on the validity of the State Auditor’s subpoena, which was not addressed in today’s order. In the meantime, county staff continue to cooperate with the State Auditor on lawful and reasonable requests.”