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Stinging State Audit Says Jackson County Executive Used Small Transfers To Spend $10 Million Without Approval

Andrea Tudhope
KCUR 89.3 file photo
Jackson County Executive Frank White at a February 2019 press conference.

Long at odds with the Jackson County Legislature over spending, the county executive disagreed with some of the audit's characterizations but said he will work with elected officials.

Jackson County Executive Frank White took advantage of a county law on transfers to spend more than $10 million without legislative approval on items like a truck for his chief of staff, according to a scathing state audit released Monday.

Examining spending from 2016 to 2018, the audit gave the county the lowest possible rating, “poor.”

White was able to use a so-called “administrative transfer” that allowed him to buy things under $10,000, spending the smaller amounts on a host of things. In all, the audit found White spent more than $3 million by transferring sums below the threshold that then went toward a single purchase of more than $10,000.

The audit also looked at a sampling of about 45 transfers and found 62% were made without the proper approval.

"Jackson County taxpayers deserve to see exactly where every one of their dollars are going, but budgeting practices and the way money was transferred between funds made that difficult," Auditor Nicole Galloway said in a statement. "The county needs better processes so that citizens can be confident all spending is appropriate and transparent."

Long a contentious issue with the Jackson County Legislature, White once vetoed a bill that would have given him fewer financial freedoms, but the legislature overruled him. On Monday, White said in a statement that he disagreed “with some of the statements or findings,” but he would work with elected officials to see if there are any additional changes to be made.

“I am pleased to know that most of the recommendations made involve issues that have already been addressed by the county,” White said.

The audit also found the “county's financial position was significantly misstated” because the county didn’t accurately estimate the fund balance, revenue and payments. For example, in 2017, the county’s estimated ending fund balance was off by more than $105 million.

In response to the audit, the county legislature said in a statement that members support the auditor’s recommendations and are “committed to continue taking actions to strengthen oversight efforts of county operations and internal controls.”

In 2018, a county legislator said White circumvented lawmakers when he purchased his chief of staff a truck for more than $30,000.

This audit is part of an independent review requested by the county legislature, and additional audits will be released later, according to a press release. An April audit looking at the anti-crime tax fund insufficient oversight.

Aviva Okeson-Haberman was the Missouri government and politics reporter at KCUR 89.3.
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