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State to audit city of Richmond

A citizen’s group fed up with the way the city of Richmond’s city council and mayor have conducted business will get their wish.
State Auditor Susan Montee has sent letters to the city of Richmond and the citizen’s group point of contact, former Mayor Ed Lee Swafford, that her office will conduct an audit of the city.
The group needed just 10 days to collect 498 petition signatures to have the audit conducted. County Clerk Lynn Rogers certified 445 of the signatures. The group needed only 351 or 15 percent of the number of registered voters from the 2004 gubernatorial elections.
Swafford said it was indicated to him that the audit could begin sometime after the first of the year. State Auditor Chief-of Staff Joe Martin said the audit would take three to five months to complete. Montee’s office estimates the cost of the audit to be between $10,000 and $20,000. The cost of the audit must be paid by the city.
A representative from Montee’s office will have a private meeting with the citizens to gauge what their concerns are.
State auditors will examine the city’s accounting practices, checks and balances, proper procedures for handling and accounting of money, and compliances of policies, ordinances and state statues, according to Martin.
Once the report is complete, a public hearing will be held in conjunction with the city council. The city council will have a chance to respond before a final report is issued to the public of the audit’s findings and what the city intends to do about the results.
Some city council members at Tuesday night committee meetings indicated they were not pleased with the request.
However, City Administrator Rick Childers said the audit is coming, so the focus shouldn’t be on why.
“It’s going to happen, that’s the deal,” Childers said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity and we will treat it as a wonderful opportunity.”
Childers said no penalties can be handed down from the audit but it does provide solid information.
“The information you get back from those pinpoints process improvements,” he said. “They have zero-enforcement authority, but they do have years of experience of finding ways to do things better.
The audit process does not have a penalty phase, but some steps have already been taken publicly concerning the city’s compliance of the Missouri Sunshine Law.
The Daily News currently has a lawsuit against the city of Richmond to release the minutes of closed-session meetings where Richmond City Council members deliberated and discussed their decision to overturn Richmond Planning and Zoning’s denial of zoning 308 and 310 E. Main from residential to commercial property.

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