Updated at 4:25 p.m. Nov. 14 with comments from a Clay County commissioner — The Clay County Sheriff’s Office is at risk of losing more than $280,000 in federal funding Friday because the county hasn’t submitted a 2018 audit that looks at whether it’s following required financial and accounting practices. The money is used to combat drug trafficking and narcotics.
Clay County received more than $2 million in federal grants in 2017, covering everything from child support enforcement to sobriety checkpoints. That money isn’t imminently at stake, but also could be jeopardized without the yearly audit, according to the sheriff’s office and the county auditor.
Clay County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Steve Siercks said he has “no idea” if the county will be able to meet Friday’s deadline to submit the audit.
It’s the latest issue for Clay County, whose government is undergoing a separate state audit initiated by thousands of citizens and defending itself from a lawsuit by the sheriff’s department. Just last week, the commission argued in court that it’s able to underfund jail contracts for food and health care.
“It’s a public safety issue,” Siercks said of the federal funding at stake. “If we have to shut down our drug task force that means that there’s not going to be trained investigators here in Clay County that are trying to stamp out and detect illegal criminal activity and illegal drug use throughout the county.”
The Kansas City Police Department administers the federal funding and told the sheriff’s office in October that in order to get the $280,000, KCPD needed the audit by Nov. 15.
RSM is the private firm in charge of the county’s audit. It told KCUR that it doesn’t comment on “any client matters.”
Clay County Auditor Victor Hurlbert said he was told by RSM that it couldn’t do its audit until the state finished its own audit. And Commissioner Luann Ridgeway told KCUR that RSM breached its contract with the county because it didn’t complete the audit.
“My personal opinion is we need to pursue RSM for any monies that are lost because of this,” Ridgeway said. “Secondly, yes, it appears that we will have to find a different accounting firm to complete the outside audit as quickly as we can get it completed.”
The county is the subject of a separate audit, for which thousands of citizens petitioned for Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway, citing concerns like transparency and record tampering. Clay County Auditor Victor Hurlbert said he was told by RSM that it couldn’t do its audit until the state finished its own audit.
Thousands of citizens petitioned for Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway to look into Clay County government, citing concerns like transparency and record tampering.
Galloway sent a letter to Clay County commissioners last week, saying her office’s audit shouldn’t get in the way and that “no political subdivision has made a claim that their independent financial and single audits cannot be timely released, jeopardizing federal awards.”
She added: “I am concerned that other departments in Clay County have been informed that they too will not receive federal awards because of this unexplained decision not to release the 2018 financial and single audits.”
Hurlbert said without the 2018 audit, Clay County could become a high-risk investment, endangering other federal grant funding.
“It's all grant money at this point, it's not just [the] sheriff’s,” Hurlbert said. “... And that burden then, if we continue those programs, falls on the county taxpayers if we can't get money from the federal government.”
If the grant is lost, the sheriff’s office has enough funding in its personal budget to “temporarily accommodate the lost grant revenue and prioritize Drug Task Force personnel,” according to a letter sent by three assistant county administrators.
The letter also said the drug task force won’t be abolished and that the county is “seeking all remedies available to complete an outside audit to maintain grant eligibility.”
Aviva Okeson-Haberman is the Missouri government and politics reporter at KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter: @avivaokeson.