The Clay County Commission is looking to limit the scope of an ongoing, resident-requested state audit of the county’s finances and operations.
The county filed a lawsuit Thursday just hours after Auditor Nicole Galloway issued a subpoena to force the county to turn over documentation from all Clay County Commission meetings in 2017 and 2018.
The county claims Galloway is overstepping her authority by seeking attorney-client communications and “blanket access” to closed-session minutes of commissioner meetings.
It also claims Galloway does not have the constitutional authority to conduct management or performance audits of the county or spend state funds for an audit that goes beyond review of receipts and expenditures of public funds.
"The Commission took this action to protect county taxpayers from footing the bill for the Auditor’s unconstitutional actions," officials wrote in a statement posted on the county's website. "The Missouri Constitution is a sacred document that outlines the obligations and limitations of statewide elected officials. It is the duty of individuals and organizations to challenge government officials who seek to expand their power beyond those granted to them by the state constitution."
A group of Clay County residents formally requested an audit last year, concerned about a lack of transparency, record tampering and tens of thousands of dollars in penalties the county incurred because it didn’t pay its bills on time. The audit began in December.
"The Clay County Commission's legal action today seeks to silence the voices of thousands of its own citizens who asked for their government to be audited,” Galloway spokewoman Steph Diedrick wrote in a statement. “More concerning is the idea that Clay County taxpayer dollars could be used to prevent an audit these same taxpayers requested."
Galloway issued the subpoena for the commission’s records after, she said, “requests for the information resulted in delays by the county and communication from multiple outside law firms.”
"Within the first six weeks of this process, my team has encountered delays, roadblocks and evasive responses that make it challenging to complete audit work in a cost-effective way on behalf of the taxpayers of Clay County," Galloway said in a statement issued Thursday afternoon. "My auditors are requesting basic information, and there is no reason why it should be this difficult.”
The commission said Galloway's statements were misleading. And in the suit, the county said it has made available several documents related to its finances and Galloway’s team has interviewed nearly two dozen employees.
Samuel King is the Missouri government and politics reporter at KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter: @SamuelKingNews.