UPDATE: This article was updated with comments from Presiding Commissioner Jerry Nolte.
UPDATE: This article was updated with additional comments by Eastern Commissioner Luann Ridgeway.
Editor's Note: This article will be updated with additional comments from the County and Presiding Commissioner Jerry Nolte as soon as they are received by the newsroom.
The Missouri State Auditor's Office filed a petition in Clay County court this week to demand compliance with the subpoena issued on Nov. 8.
A press release issued by State Auditor Nicole Galloway's office said it intends the petition to enforce, "the lawfully executed subpoena required records and testimony associated with a citizen-mandated audit of Clay County."
Eastern Commissioner Luann Ridgeway said the County and Galloway scheduled Assistant County Administrator Nicole Brown to appear for her deposition next week.
"Just as we said last week, she was willing to appear on a mutually agreeable date, and that has now been scheduled," she said. "Additionally, the County has produced virtually all information requested by the Auditor aside from a relatively small information set that we feel we must protect given it includes sensitive employee information and attorney-client privileged communications.
Ridgeway said in the most recent suit, Galloway for the first time, "conceded that she is not entitled to access attorney-client privileged materials." She said that concession removed most of the disputed issues with the Auditor.
Ridgeway said she hopes these latest events will speed up resolution of the audit so it can come to an end with a final report.
The petition states in part, "The County may make appropriate redactions for attorney-client privileged communication if a log is provided for each redaction that contains sufficient information to determine whether the attorney-client privilege is properly involved."
However, Ridgeway said the County does still dispute Galloway's demand for employee performance review records spanning a host of departments in the County, including the Sheriff’s department.
"The Missouri courts recognize that all employees, including public employees, have a fundamental right of privacy in their employment records," she said. "We believe we are obligated to protect the rights of all County employees, especially in light of the limits that the Missouri Constitution places on the Auditor’s authority. Every elected official takes an oath to defend the Missouri Constitution, and we believe that includes resisting efforts by other elected officials to exceed the powers bestowed on them by the Constitution. Fortunately, our Judiciary is given the responsibility for protecting the County against the Catch-22 that the Auditor’s demands have created.”
Presiding Commissioner Jerry Nolte said he supported the audit from the beginning and called on Ridgeway and Western Commissioner Gene Owen to stop what he said he described as the delaying tactics and fully cooperate with the State Auditor.
"As I have stated before, reasonable redactions could be made similar to those laid out in the Auditor’s latest petition," he said. "My concern is the extensive redaction of documents produced in the Sheriff’s lawsuit will be repeated with the state audit. The result would be yet more litigation, through the roof legal bills and even more delays. Litigation is no substitute for leadership, the people have waited long enough, stop stalling."