State Auditor addresses cost, concerns as citizens petition for New Bloomfield audit

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway explains the process of a petitioned state audit. (Ashley Zavala/KRCG 13).

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway addressed concerns expressed by some New Bloomfield community members as a petition for a state audit circulates throughout the city.

City leaders discouraged citizens from signing the petition, citing cost concerns. State Auditor Nicole Galloway confirmed Thursday state law requires cities to handle the cost of the audit if they are petitioned.

"At the very beginning we do a cost estimate to see how much it will cost and it's on the face of the petition," Galloway said.

"So when citizens are signing the petition they'll understand what the cost will be to the city. At the end of the process, once it's released publicly, we send an itemized bill to the city and then the city makes payment arrangements with our office."

Petitioner Cheri Wilson said the cost of the audit ranges from $25,000 to $40,000. Wilson is the Chairman of the group, Concerned Citizens of New Bloomfield.

According to the state auditor's office website, of the 46 audits in progress, 10 of them were petitioned. Like New Bloomfield, four of the petitioned audits in progress are fourth-class cities.

Galloway said her office routinely works with public entities on payment.

"That might mean a payment plan, that might mean planning for it in the current year's budget and the next year's budget. We are certainly flexible because we do understand political subdivisions need to provide services to citizens and their citizens expect that foremost," Galloway said.

After initially collecting more than 100 signatures for the audit of New Bloomfield, 13 people rescinded their signatures before the 10 day deadline. Witnesses said some city leaders coerced community members to remove their signatures. Galloway said petitioners have a year to submit the 11 signatures needed for the audit.

"Taking a step back, a petition allows citizens to hold their local government accountable. This is what this is all about," she said.

"When citizens have questions and they demand accountability and transparency from their local government, the petition process is a way to do that. We work with petitioners at the very beginning to understand what their concerns are, that's how we develop the cost estimate and how much time it will take, we also look at the size of the city as well as potential risk areas within the city."

City leaders have said they are required by state law to get an independent audit each year. Documents show the cost of that audit ranging from $9,000 to about $11,5000 the last few years.

Galloway said the type of audit her office does is different. She noted, it's a performance audit.

"We look at compliance with state law, we look at compliance with local ordinances and policies and procedures. We also look at best management practices, we'll always look at the sunshine law," she said.

"We'll look at data security, we'll look to see if accounts are reconciled and if the entity understands where money is coming in and where it's going. A lot of this seems pretty basic but there's a lot of risk and tax payer dollars being mismanaged if an entity doesn't know where it's coming in, how they're accounting for it and where it's being spent. All of this goes to holding these local cities accountable for how they're using their limited resources, which are tax payer resources," the auditor said.

"When we conduct our audit, we are there in the city, collecting documents, doing interviews, addressing whistleblower concerns, addressing petitioner and citizen concerns, at the end of that process which the city gets to see and they have 30 days to respond to our report. Those responses are included in the report that's issued publicly. Citizens will understand how the city is taking these recommendations seriously and what path there is to move forward."

You can watch Galloway's full interview here:

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