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Jackson County Audit Has Begun — First Up, COMBAT, The County's Anti-Crime Sales Tax

Luke X. Martin
KCUR 89.3
Vince Ortega, COMBAT's new executive director, hopes the audit will help him usher in some changes to the 30-year-old program.

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway's performance audit of Jackson County started Thursday. First up is COMBAT, the county's Community-Backed Anti-Crime Tax that brings in around $20 million per year.

The Jackson County legislature requested the county-wide audit in January, after a year of infighting at the expense of taxpayers, spurred by a fight for control of COMBAT, between Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker and Executive Frank White. 

Galloway agreed to the audit in April, and, she said in a statement, she spent the months since speaking "to citizens and officials in Jackson County about a variety of issues, but found a common theme: concerns about how taxpayer dollars are being utilized."

Baker's office — which took control of COMBAT in September — is also conducting an audit of COMBAT funds, which has been a sticking point in the feud, since the legislature called into question how White was directing the millions of dollars each year.

The state audit comes just a few weeks after Baker appointed Vince Ortega as COMBAT's new executive director. Ortega has been deputy director for nine years, and he said he's hopeful the results of the audit will help him make some changes to the 30-year-old program.

"We're hoping from the performance audit that we can look at more processes that will help us expedite the money more, how we distribute it, and make sure that the funding is properly allocated," Ortega told KCUR.

Ortega said he wants to have COMBAT take a more community-oriented approach to violence, and be more proactive by investing resources in prevention rather than just treatment. 

In addition to the audits, Ortega said he plans to gather data to evaluate the community impact of the anti-drug and anti-violence program. 

A final audit of COMBAT will be released first, but the ongoing audit into the entire county will conclude at a later date. 

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter for KCUR 89.3. Email her at andreat@kcur.org, and follow her on Twitter @andreatudhope.

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