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Fieldwork for a citizen-driven audit on the city of Richmond is near completion, according to Todd Schuler, audit manager for the state auditor’s office in Kansas City. Senior Auditor Lori Bryant has been working in Richmond with city officials and staff members since early April.
Schuler said even though most of the fieldwork is done, the process requires a few more steps.
“We explain the problems as we go [to staff],” Schuler said. “Then, we will summarize our recommendations and talk with staff responsible in different areas. This is an opportunity to hear the problems you found. If we’re wrong, [they can] show us something that changes our minds,” he said.
After Bryant’s wrap-up with city staff, Schuler said he will go through all materials and draft a report, which may require additional questions or a site visit to complete. The report is then reviewed by Alice Fast, director of local government audits, for her approval. Once the audit is approved, Schuler will contact the city council to place a public notice for a closed meeting for him to meet with the council to discuss the contents of the audit.
“And then we request [council] responses for our report that will become part of the report,” Schuler said.
The report is sent to State Auditor Susan Montee for final review.
After Montee’s approval, the audit will be made available to the public in the fall of this year, he said.
Schuler said it is likely the audit will be presented in a public meeting. Schuler said he or his boss, Alice Fast, will hand out copies and go through the public report and answer questions.
“We anticipate a fairly large turnout. We’re talking about a town of several thousands and a lot of signers,” he said.
In September 2008, a citizen-driven petition collected 498 signatures in a 10-day period. Of that number, 445 signatures were certified, but only 351 signatures were required for the state to perform the audit. One of the petitioners, former Mayor Ed Lee Swafford, said the move was triggered by the prospect of increases to city water and sewer rates. He and others are concerned with the transfer of designated money for water and sewer into the city’s general fund, procedures in obtaining landscaping bids for the new City Hall, and the legality of the impeachment of City Councilman Chris Keen in June 2008.
Schuler said the crux of the report will be the findings from his department; however, the report will also include history and organization of Richmond’s city government.
“We try to be as positive as possible even though audits are inherently negative,” Schuler said. He also said the process has “been a pretty smooth audit and everybody’s been cooperative.”