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Missouri Auditor Subpoenas Records From Smithville Fire District

Smithville Fire Protection District

This story was updated Thursday at 4:30 pm with comments from the fire district's lawyer.

In an unusual move, the Missouri State Auditor has subpoenaed the Smithville Fire Protection District for financial records. The auditor requests documents constantly from state and local governments, but very rarely is a subpoena needed.

The fire district failed to respond to five requests from the auditor's office for the information, the latest in a letter sent Oct. 3. "Any further delay will increase both the time it takes to complete this audit and the cost of performing the audit," according to the letter sent to Fire Chief John Callahan and board President Debbie Childress. The letter promised "further action" and that action came Thursday in the form of subpoenas.

The first thing the subpoena demands is records "used to determine employee bonuses given in 2011." A review of the 2011 budget contained in that year's audit report shows no line for bonuses. While there seems to be no indication in the budget that bonuses were paid, the auditor's office has such information, according to a spokeswoman.

The auditor also demanded documents related to building a new fire station. Voters in 2012 approved $3 million in bonds for the project. The auditor also subpoenaed, specifically from Chief Callahan, any "electronic devices owned by the district but in your possession" including laptops, desktops or jump drives.

The Smithville department covers a wide swath of Clay County north of Kansas City International Airport that includes the city of Smithville and most of Smithville Lake. Last year the district had an operating revenue of $1.2 million, according to online budget documents.

The lawyer for the fire district says officials have been trying to fulfill all of the auditor's requests. "Every request has been diligently serched for," says Joe Gagnon who is also the prosecutor in Clinton County. He says Smithville will "cooperate fully" and has given the auditor "full access to the firehouse."

Sam Zeff covers education for KCUR and the Kansas News Service and is co-host of the political podcast Statehouse Blend Kansas. Follow him on Twitter @SamZeff.