Editor's note: Responses from Clay County officials to Galloway's press have been added throughout the article.
According to a press release issued by the State Auditor's office, State Auditor Nicole Galloway issued a subpoena to Clay County today to require the county to turn over documents associated with a citizen mandated audit.
In an official statement from Clay County, officials said Galloway’s press release fails to tell the whole story and also fails to mention her own office’s neglect over the past several months.
"Earlier this year, the Clay County Commission authorized the filing of a lawsuit after the Galloway subpoenaed minutes of closed session meetings of the County Commission," the statement said. "Galloway claimed that she had the authority to review minutes reflecting, among other things, attorney-client privileged communications, and discussions of sensitive personnel issues. Galloway’s claims flew in the face of the Missouri Constitution, which limits the Auditor’s authority to matters, 'related to the supervising and auditing of the receipt and expenditure of public funds.' In the meantime, the County has produced to the auditor closed session minutes other than those that are attorney-client privileged or that relate to confidential personnel matters."
In an Oct. 24 ruling on a lawsuit filed by the Clay County Commission against Galloway's office, Division I Circuit Judge Jon E. Beetem said the Court dismissed all counts in the Commission’s First Amended Petition.
Clay County officials said while the court did recently dismiss the County’s suit, the Court explicitly stated the County can challenge Galloway’s right to obtain specific records in a suit that she might bring to enforce her subpoena.
The County interprets the Court’s ruling, the statement said, to mean the Court did not rule on whether Galloway can legally obtain the records she subpoenaed. County officials said they currently seek further guidance from the Court on that point.
After the court ruling, Galloway said her office requested the information from the Clay County Commission again on Oct. 31. Additionally, the press release said, auditors requested information routinely and readily provided in audits of county governments.
"Clay County officials have failed to fulfill the request, and their attorneys have said that responses will be delayed indefinitely," the press release said. "Given the past conduct of the county in evading the audit, the subpoena was issued to get answers on behalf of Clay County citizens."
County officials said the letter delivered by Galloway demanded 51 categories of voluminous records, only five of which Galloway included her earlier requests. Officials also said they believed to have satisfied most of the previous requests. Galloway demanded many of the records be turned over by Nov. 7, they said.
"The County’s attorney wrote Galloway’s attorney earlier this week, and advised that the County would be complying with the bulk of her requests," the statement said. "But he also explained that County staff are currently working on the County’s 2020 budget, which must be completed by Nov. 15, and that they would begin gathering the requested records as soon as the budget work was finished. Rather than accommodate this legitimate concern, Galloway has precipitously issued a subpoena, along with another press release that falsely suggests the County is interfering with the audit."
Clay County officials said Galloway's release did not explain what they believe to be her office's failure to advance the audit of Clay County over the past nine months.
"The County’s suit challenged only Galloway’s subpoena of a narrow sliver of records and acknowledged Galloway’s right to examine any aspect of the County’s finances," the statement said. "This is further proven by the County’s acknowledgment that Galloway is entitled to nearly all of the records she requested last week because they clearly relate to the 'receipt and expenditure of public funds.' There is simply no reason why Galloway sat on her hands for the last nine months when she could have been getting these records in an orderly fashion and thereby expediting the completion of the audit. The citizens of Clay County should be asking Galloway hard questions instead of accepting her misleading narrative."
County officials said they intend to cooperate with the audit in an appropriate manner. County staff, they said, communicated their intention to provide the requested materials with Galloway's office. However, staff did indicate to Galloway's office the need for more than seven days to comply due to their Nov. 15 deadline to complete the 2020 budget, they said.
"The County did not receive the Auditor’s request until Oct. 31," the statement said. "That said, the auditor could have sought these records long ago but unfortunately seems to have waited until it would serve her personal, political interests."
Updates to this developing story will be provided as they become available.