Citizens of Greene County who have been wanting an audit of the county are getting their wish.
The Greene County Commission voted unanimously Wednesday morning to authorize an audit by state auditor Nicole Galloway.
“I think important issues have been raised. I do have concerns moving from Miss Galloway proposed to us to something different,” Commissioner Bengsch stated before his vote. “I’m not sure this audit is necessary. I have full confidence in the staff of Greene County. They’re doing their jobs in the correct manner. However, there is a situation we have to acknowledge.
We have essentially a new commission except for me. I think it’s vitally important that the new commission is in unity. As we start this new year, I think it’s ever more important that the community sees that we are in unity. “
Presiding commissioner Bob Dixon echoed Bengsch’s statements.
“We have a few hills to climb but if we all work together they’ll just be bumps in the path,” Dixon said. “I have high confidence in our staff that everything would be in order but I think it would be good for the full audit to restore the public trust.”
The original order (shown below), drafted by Commissioner Lincoln Hough, calls for a full audit of the county rather than the audit under a limited scope that was proposed by Auditor Galloway in response to whistleblower complaints about the county.
The amended version of the order will remove the word “comprehensive” to allow the auditor to begin with a “high level” audit and not be forced to audit in-depth into areas where the “high level” audit finds no issues.
The order was also amended to state the audit would begin after the conclusion of field data collection for the currently ongoing external audit being conducted by Greene County. It also requests the auditor work from their offices on Park Central Square rather than in county offices due to lack of available office space.
Presiding commissioner Bob Dixon was clear that despite the minor changes, he wants to make sure the Commission gives the state auditor “the freedom to do what they feel is necessary.”
The call for an audit from State Auditor Galloway began following a whistleblower complaint from then County Spokeswoman Trysta Herzog alleging that she “faced nearly daily coercion on County campus, through County email and County-paid cell phone from Presiding Commissioner Bob Cirtin to participate in political activities as part of my job.”
The state auditor says since that initial whistleblower complaint, more than 20 other complaints were delivered to her office regarding actions by Cirtin and/or those connected to the Invest in Greene County political action committee, which advocated for the passage of the tax.
The Missouri Ethics Commission announced in December that Cirtin and the PAC had made six campaign finance violations in connection with their pro-tax campaign actions.
A county audit had been previously voted down 2-1. Cirtin accused Democrat auditor Galloway of conducting a “political witch hunt.” Cirtin lost in the August 2018 Republican primary to Dixon by an over 2-to-1 vote margin. The other “no” vote came from Commissioner Harold Bengsch, who said at the time he would be open to reconsidering if Galloway released more information regarding allegations against the county.
According to Commissioner Hough, the cost to the county for a full audit could run around $150,000 based on the cost for recent audits in Camden and Jackson counties.