The state of Missouri's top auditor has informed Kansas City's mayor of his options should the city desire an audit of the Water Services Department.
This comes after six stories over the last year from the KCTV5 Investigations' team exposed major discrepancies.
The stories exposed the millions of dollars in overdue accounts, pricey public relations hires and bills sent to properties without any pipes.
In a letter sent to Mayor Sly James, Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich said his office has received several complaints about the performance of the city's water department.
"I'm sure you are aware of these issues as they have been widely reported by the media as well. There are a growing number of people and entities who wish to see the State Auditor perform an audit of the Kansas City Water Department," Schweich said in the letter.
Schweich said, however, the state auditor's office does not have statutory authority to come in on its own to audit the water department.
However, there are three legal mechanisms by which his office can perform an audit of the department.
First, Gov. Jay Nixon could ask the auditor's office to perform an audit. A governor directed audit would be paid for by state tax dollars.
A second option would be that the citizens of Kansas City could circulate a petition asking the auditor's office to perform an audit. This would require valid signatures from 10,487 registered voters. This type of audit would require the city to pay for the full cost of the audit.
A third and final option would be that the city council could request the auditor's office to conduct the audit. In this case, a payment structure would be approved in advance of their work.
"In light of the growing concerns among the citizens of Kansas City about the performance of the Kansas City Water Department, we believe it would be in the best interest of the citizens of the city to have this audit performed," Schweich said in the letter.
In July 2012, the investigations team revealed a list of $13 million in unpaid bills. At that time, it included some prominent names, like sports complexes as well as federal, state and county governments. None were being pursued for nonpayment.
The KCMO Water Services Department hired new staff after the story ran to try and go after those who do not pay but, nearly 10 months later, very little has changed.
A May 2013 open records request shows even more customers owe the agency money. The total amount has dropped by $500,000, but the delinquent accounts include many of the same names.
The legal department has taken action against a few more customers – individuals and private businesses only.
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