by Kathy Crawford
Twenty-five percent of the registered voters in Tracy have signed a petition asking the state to conduct audits of the city's sewer and water funds for 2005, 2006 and 2007.
The petition was circulated by Brenda Ferguson, who served as mayor of Tracy until being defeated by Rita Rhoads in the April election.
If the Missouri State Auditor conducts the three years' worth of audits that the board of aldermen has so far failed to obtain, the cost to the city will be between $10,000 and $20,000. The wording on the petition included the estimated cost to the city, so residents knew before they signed it how much the audits would cost.
However, Ferguson said she had no problem getting the 33 signatures required despite the cost. Ferguson said she decided to move forward with the petition following the April meeting when the board voted to withhold payment to the city's current auditor, Steve Connelly.
“I started the petition to protect my tenure as mayor,” said Ferguson, who served as mayor for six years. “I felt an audit needed to be done, and I contacted the state auditor.”
Annual audits of the water and sewer funds are mandatory, city attorney Lisa Rehard told board members last year at the October 2007 meeting. The audits are mandated because Tracy received a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant for its upgraded sewer system, 80 percent of which is federal funds, and another $500,000 in revenue bonds issued by the Department of Natural Resources, said Ferguson.
“The DNR called me in February to ask for the '05 audit, and we don't have it,” said Ferguson.
Mayor Rita Rhoads said in a phone conversation on Monday that the city has been making payments. She said she spoke to Connelly last week and that he was just about finished with the 2005 and 2006 audits, but the city does not have enough funds to pay for the 2007 audit. Rhoads said she has spoken with the DNR in the last three weeks, too.
“They have not said anything about wanting to see an audit to me,” said Rhoads.
Ferguson told board members last October that she tried unsuccessfully to get a consensus from board members in prior years to complete the audits. She contacted a list of 20 auditors last fall provided to her by Rehard and told board members at the October meeting that the only auditor who responded was Connelly. He was willing to take payments from the city on his bid of $10,000 for a combined audit of 2005 and 2006.
However, Alderman Bob Kaveler said he was not familiar with Connelly's firm and wanted to do some checking. As such, the board postponed a vote to hire an auditor until November. At the November meeting, the board finally voted to enter into a contract with Connelly for the 2005 and 2006 audits, and agreed to begin making payments.
The board did make some payments, but Rhoads could not say during an interview this week how much of the promised $10,000 Connelly had received before the three-member board consisting of Larry Hill, Julie Thomas and Kaveler voted unanimously at April's meeting to withhold Connelly's payment.
“I thought (it would be) we would make payments, but after we received the audit, after they performed their service,” said Thomas. “I still don't understand why we are paying for something we haven't even seen yet.”
Hill said that he understood that the vote before the board in November was to make payments prior to receiving the audit. However, he said that he thought Connelly would provide the audits in a timely manner.
“We all know what happened,” said Hill. “It's tax season and they slighted us, and I don't think we should be paying for something we don't even have.”
Ferguson said on Monday that she mailed the petition to the state auditor's office and that they will be contacting Connelly. What actions the state takes may depend on whether the audits are complete when they contact Connelly. And whether Connelly will turn them over to Tracy may be contingent on him getting his fee.