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Battle Heats Up Between Jackson County Executive Frank White And County Legislature

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3

Jackson County Executive Frank White wasn't there to see it, but he took a beating Wednesday in the county Legislature.

Seemingly out of nowhere, the legislators discussed how the county paid for a truck driven by White's embattled chief of staff, Caleb Clifford, and suggested the county executive's office was trying to hide that purchase from the Legislature. 

The county auditor prepared a memo titled "Where did the money come from to pay for Chief of Staff's $33,945 vehicle?"

The memo detailed six transfers of funds all under $10,000. Any transfer of money over that must be approved by the Legislature. The six transfers totaled $30,104 and came from the Health Fund, Anti-Drug Sales Tax Fund and the Special Road & Bridge Fund, among others.

"When you make six transfers to buy a truck, we don't get to see any of that," says County Legislature Chairman Scott Burnett of Kansas City.

"This circumvents the authority of the legislature," says Legislator Dennis Waits, who represents parts of Kansas City, Independence and Sugar Creek.

Clifford's truck is a 2016 Chevrolet Colorado bought from a dealer in Platte City. The truck is equipped with an off road package, aluminum wheels, satellite radio and cost $33,945, according a document provided by the county auditor.

White's spokesperson, Marshanna Hester, says the county's previous chief financial offer approved the truck deal "and was responsible for the transfer of the funds to cover the cost." The previous chief of staff had a $700 a month car stipend and had access to a county owned vehicle, according to Hester.

But the Legislature wasn't finished with attacking White. It unanimously disapproved three executive orders including one calling for a hiring freeze.

Legislators did so despite the opinion of the county's lawyer that they did not have the power to disapprove the hiring freeze.

Some legislators suggested a circuit court judge would have to decide who is right. White's spokesperson couldn't say whether the county executive will take this to court. But Hester did say in a statement that "the administration will keep moving forward and work on behalf of the citizens and associates of Jackson County."

Sam Zeff is KCUR's Metro Reporter. Follow him on Twitter @SamZeff.

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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