Signers do not seem dissuaded by the potential cost of a state audit being sought for Joplin, a spokesman for a group circulating petitions for the audit said Friday.
The cost of the audit is being estimated at between $95,000 and $145,000, said Kim Seavy, one of the residents involved in the audit effort. None of the petition signers are questioning the amount, he said.
“The state says it’s just a rough estimate,” he said. And there might be more that they decide they want to get into once they get here. But I’d rather pay, and get the answers.”
Seavy said at midday Friday that he, personally, had collected about three dozen signatures, adding “there’s been a lot of interest.”
He said about 12 people are involved in a core group. The group is collecting signatures in a petition drive to force a state audit aimed at investigating issues surrounding the firing of City Manager Mark Rohr and payments to a private investigator who was hired to look into potential council ethics violations.
If the audit effort is successful, the city will be billed for the state costs to do the review, based on auditors’ time in Joplin and related expanses.
The audit that would be done by the state would be a performance audit, according to Spence Jackson, spokesman for the office of state Auditor Thomas Schweich. He contrasted the review from financial audits completed annually for many cities and other units of government.
An audit of city financial records and operations is conducted each year. Leslie Haase, finance director, said auditors with Cochran, Head, Vick & Co. recently finished their field work in Joplin on the audit for the fiscal year ending Oct. 31. The review will cost about $70,000, she said.
“We have audits all the time from agencies that fund city projects and programs,” she said. “The Federal Transportation Administration just finished an audit, and we just had state and federal people here on health grants.”
She said the federal inspector general’s office also has reviewed expenditures of a small amount of money spent so far from Community Development Block Grant funds the city received in the wake of the May 2011 tornado.
Seavy has been among several residents who have addressed the City Council in recent meetings to criticize actions surrounding the dismissal of Rohr and payments to investigator Tom Loraine. The amount of those payments turned out to be almost twice what the council initially authorized for the probe.
Loraine was hired by the City Council to look into ethical questions concerning two members of the council, but the probe expanded to focus on Rohr. The council voted 5-4 to fire Rohr on Feb. 4, the same night it received the investigator’s report.
Seavy said the council should have to specify its reasons for firing Rohr.
The investigator’s bill totaled $81,819. The council had authorized up to $45,000 without further authorization. The council has voted, also 5-4, to pay the full amount of the bill.
Under state requirements for such an audit, the group must submit signatures equivalent to 10 percent of city residents who cast ballots in the last gubernatorial election. Seavy said the auditor’s office has told the group that it must collect 1,776 signatures of registered voters inside the city.