Jackson County Executive Blasts Audit Alleging Misspent Anti-Drug Money
Jackson County Executive Frank White Thursday blasted the audit of the COMBAT anti-crime tax commissioned by the prosecutor's office.
"Unlike numerous members of the media, the County Executive's Office was not provided an advanced copy of the report prior to its public release this (Wednesday) morning," said a statement from White's office emailed Thursday. "Therefore, we are unable to fully address the entirety of the report since we are still reviewing its contents at this time," the statement continued.
Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker ordered the report from an outside auditing firm after she took over the COMBAT sales tax fund last year from the county executive's office.
The 32-page report said millions of dollars in money meant for anti-drug and anti-violence prevention went to salaries and construction projects unrelated to COMBAT's mission.
The audit cited $2.2 million used to fix cell doors at the downtown jail. That was money over the hefty chunk of COMBAT money the corrections department automatically gets and funds not approved by COMBAT management or the County Legislature.
Auditors also uncovered that since 2010 the county finance department would regularly underestimate how much money the sales tax would generate. That resulted in extra money in the COMBAT fund. That money, the audit said, would then be doled out on an emergency basis by county executives Mike Sanders and Frank White.
"However, it is important to note that we have already identified concerning factual inaccuracies within the report," the statement from White said.
The executive's office said the audit errored when it said the 2018 COMBAT fund estimate was off by 11.7%. The audit said the fund was budgeted for $23.6 million but actually took in $26.4 million.
"This number is not true and in fact inflates the COMBAT sales tax revenue received by almost two-million dollars," according to the statement.
"We’ve alerted the auditor of this challenge regarding the 2018 revenues number," prosecutor spokesperson Mike Mansur said in an email. He also said auditors relied on information from the county Finance Department.
White's office went out of its way to say the county executive has tried to work with Baker since the Legislature wrested control of the COMBAT fund from White.
"Since COMBAT was transferred to the Prosecuting Attorney in early 2017, the County Executive has been, and remains, committed to supporting the Prosecuting Attorney as she oversees the COMBAT sales tax."
However, White vetoed the ordinance transfering control and sued when the Legislature overrode the veto. White eventually lost in the courts and Baker took over COMBAT last November. That's when she ordered the financial audit.
Sam Zeff is KCUR's metro reporter. You can follow Sam on Twitter @samzeff.