There is a saying, and I don’t know who it is originally attributed to, but it is said we get the government we deserve, not necessarily the one we want. I really wish I had more time to contribute to letting you know the insanity that often goes on down at the Clay County Courthouse.
I received this note from Sheila Ernzen the other day. She promises to share more in the coming days.
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
As county auditor, I am furious on behalf of Clay County employees and citizens about the irresponsibility and lack of professionalism of their county government.
I believe that I have as much of an obligation to inform the voters of who is responsible for the dysfunctional state of their county government as I do to compromise and work with other County officials and employees to serve the citizens of this county within the bounds of law. The last week and a half has been a classic example of the lack of professionalism, lack of communication and unwillingness to compromise that currently plagues our county courthouse.
The assistant county counselor, Matt Thompson [editor's note: this is T.K. Thompson's son, and from what I have been told he's a good buddy of my pal "Amorous" Vic Hurlbert], put all county employees in jeopardy of not being paid this Friday due to his behavior. I am not sure if he was following the direction of the Clay County Commission as a whole or a single commissioner. I am certain that he serves at the pleasure of the county commission and his actions reflect on them as a whole.
On Monday of last week, March 9, I was told by the HR director that I would not be given copies of documents that I requested to audit the county’s upcoming payroll. Missouri law allows the county auditor to have access to all books, county records, or papers kept by any county officer. I appealed to the county administrator by email and copied the commission.
On Tuesday, March 10, I was told by Matt Thompson that I could not have copies of the requested documents due to concerns of employee privacy. I responded, in the spirit of compromise, as I should, with other ideas of how I could receive the information I needed to document my approval that the changes in the payroll system were authorized and correct.
I was ignored until Saturday, March 15th, when I again was told no. Again, I offered additional ideas as to how a compromise could be reached so that payroll would not be affected. I was ignored again until Tuesday afternoon, March 18th.
Amazingly, I was ignored even after talking to Matt Thompson face to face before the County Commission meeting on Monday, March 17th. I expressed my concern about meeting the payroll deadlines to ensure County employees would be paid and stated that we needed to find a solution. He assured me that he had not had time to review my email yet (the email sent almost 24 hours earlier), but that he would get with me later that afternoon or Tuesday morning.
Late Tuesday afternoon, I was notified by Mr. Thompson that in the interest of cooperation I would get copies of redacted status change forms from HR, and that if I needed to view the complete form, I could view them in the HR department. I responded by thanking him, told him I would like to try out his solution, and asked that I receive the forms with redacted information as soon as possible so that payroll could be approved to the commission for payment.
I received no response.
This morning (payroll is supposed to be processed before 2:30pm the Wednesday before payday in order for County employees to receive their payroll funds by direct deposit on Friday) my office received no forms. I instructed my office to send HR an email asking about the forms and we received no response.
I called Matt Thompson and asked when I would receive the forms. He had changed his mind about providing the documents with redacted information to me, but he had not told me. I am guessing he would not have told me if I had not called him.
During my phone conversation with Matt Thompson, he seemed angered by the fact that I had sent a copy of the form I was requesting a copy of from the HR department to the Attorney General’s office to ask them if they agreed with the Assistant County Counselor and County Commission that the information was not open to the public under the Missouri Sunshine Law. He also told me I would have to make a Sunshine Request to get copies of the forms, even with redacted information and that he would not provide me the copies to use to audit payroll because he didn’t have to. I was left with the impression that payroll would be processed without my approval.
I called the county and found out that payroll had not been processed yet. As the deadline to submit payroll passed, I received a phone call from one of the other Assistant County Counselors. He worked with me to find a solution that allowed me to get the adequate documentation that I needed to fulfill my duty to the citizens of Clay County and ensure that county employees would be paid on Friday.
Clay County employees and citizens owe a big thank you to Assistant County Counselor Kevin Graham for saving the day after pay day was jeopardized.