Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway today released an audit of Jackson County government that found lack of transparency in how the county spent millions of taxpayer dollars on legal, lobbying and other professional services. The audit identified $2.7 million in contracts that were not competitively bid and another $1.3 million in contracts that went years without being reevaluated.
"The prevalence of no-bid contracts and the lack of review for professional services in Jackson County government is troubling," Auditor Galloway said. "Time and again, officials violated the policies the county has to ensure transparency. Taxpayers deserve better."
The county charter requires all professional services contracts over $5,000 to be selected through a competitive process, except in emergency situations. However, the audit found multiple occasions when the county failed to solicit proposals. These included:
In other cases, services were solicited, but not reevaluated over several years. This was the case for $1.3 million paid to a federal lobbying law firm to assist with a multimodal transportation plan on the Rock Island Rail Corridor. The county utilized these services between 2011 and 2017, but competitive bids were only solicited in 2010 and 2013.
The audit detailed multiple situations where the county did not require detailed invoices for the work being performed and billed to the county. Additionally, on several occasions services were provided and the county was billed months before a written contract was signed.
The audit also reviewed travel expenses and found lack of oversight resulted in travel costs being reimbursed when expenses were not in compliance with county policy or not actually incurred. Additionally, the audit found travel expenses charged to the county credit card by the former chief of staff that were missing invoices and included excessive room service charges.
The audit also found travel expenses totaling more than $160,000 for county employees and officials were funneled through a federal lobbying law firm. Between June 2010 through April 2016, airfare, lodging, meals and registration fees for county staff were among the expenses billed to and paid by the county. The travel costs were not transparently documented as travel expenditures by the county and were sometimes excessive. Auditors requested detailed records related to these travel expenses several times beginning in February 2019. County officials ultimately provided summary information related to the travel expenses in August 2020.
The complete audit report is available here.
The performance audit is part of an independent review of county government finances being done by the State Auditor's Office at the request of the Jackson County Legislature. Additional reports, including reports on budgeting and payroll, are ongoing.