Posts Tagged ‘Luann Ridgeway’

A significant amount of money from the $50 million certificates of participation that Commissioners Owen and Ridgeway are wanting to spend involves a new Clay County Annex. 

For those that don’t know what the Clay County Annex is, it’s a second building of the County’s that provides some County government functions. It’s supposed to help people in the County who are farther away from the Clay County Courthouse in Liberty, MO. It’s located down in Kansas City at 1901 NE 48th St.

I’ll be the first to grant the Commissioners the point that the building leaves more to be desired and has some problems. Doing something about it could be, and probably is, justifiable.

The question becomes just what is justifiable.

I’ve been told that the proposed new building might cost as much as $20 million dollars. I don’t have any firm information because, well, no one really does.

You swing over to the highly advanced, and modern, Clay County, Missouri web page and you get little, if any, information in the news section. Seems we went through a 2 year period where there wasn’t any news at all to print back in 16 and 17.

Interestingly, you do get a little bit of propaganda about the tax levy kerfuffle. Business as usual folks, your Commissioners unanimously froze tax rates after Commissioner Ridgeway rode in on her legislative steed and saved the day.

Clay County Front Page

Funny, I don’t see a news item from 2017 saying Commissioners raised your taxes in a 2-1 vote. Oh, well, that news wasn’t fit to print. Busy, busy running the County, or something.

Great news though, the County is continuing “to move forward with multiple improvement projects addressing deferred maintenance and infrastructure upgrades and is committed to taking on these tasks without raising taxes.”

Sigh…

One would think that if you were about to leverage the citizens of the County for a cool $20 million that you might want to tell us about your grand scheme.

And that’s where the questions begin to get really interesting.

I find it peculiar that we’re talking about a $20 million dollar building when there’s been no serious public discussion about what this building will look like and where it might be located.

Do architectural plans for said building even exist?

If they do, how were they created?

Was there an RFP?

Who created them?

How was this architect chosen?

If plans don’t exist, how did you arrive at the $20 million?

Did you consult an architectural firm without the full knowledge of the entire commission, or did you all throw darts at a dart board?

Dart throw

Possible future architectural consultant for Clay County, Missouri?

If architectural plans exist, where is this new building going?

Or, more interestingly, do you have an actual parcel of land that you’re going to build on?

That’s a really interesting question actually, and I’m hearing some really interesting rumors.

I’ve been asking around a lot to try and figure out if it’s true or not. I’m not naming any specific names, but will if it can be proven.

There is an individual that may be a friend of a specific Commissioner who could be involved in the land transaction where this new building may set.

Now, I’d like to believe that this is a rumor and is not true, because if a friend of a specific Commissioner financially benefited from a deal like this, it would look really bad.

But, hey, just rumors, right?

I’m a practical guy. I often think we should think a little different in government. After all, it’s my money you’re forcefully confiscating, so you’d think you would want to be as responsible as possible.

Has anyone considered looking at existing office space or older strip malls for the Annex?

The Annex is functional. It serves a purpose. It doesn’t have to be an amazing building. It just needs to do what it’s supposed to do.

Considering a lease agreement on some sort of existing space could save tax payers a boatload of money, and potentially bring more business traffic to another part of the County.

Not saying I’m right here, or if it’s even possible, but we have no idea what you have considered thus far. Again, I’m part of the nearly 8,000 citizens who don’t trust anything you do.

Commissioners Owen and Commissioners Ridgeway would make the most responsible choice they’ve ever made if they just stopped everything on this. If they seriously want to proceed, they need to treat the citizens of Clay County with some respect and start giving us specifics and details. Quit hiding behind executive sessions.

Advertisements
ID-100253379

Photo courtesy of winnond / FreeDigitalPhotos.net http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1970

Clay County employees are fearful this week because Presiding Commissioner Pam Mason is terrorizing them with lies and misinformation yet again. This week she is scaring them about their health insurance.

 

In an effort to manipulate employees into pressuring Commissioner Luann Ridgeway to approve the contract for an employee benefit consultant quickly and without question, Mason has told her staff to scare County employees into believing their health insurance benefits will be cancelled if Ridgeway doesn’t approve the contract immediately.

 

This is not true. The County has separate, stand alone contracts with Blue Cross Blue Shield, Delta Dental and EyeMed Vision that are not at all affected by whether or not the county has a contract with Garry & Associates.

 

A benefit consultant is used to evaluate insurance plans offered by insurance companies and negotiate rates with them for the benefit of the company buying its employees health insurance.  They are frequently used by local governments to help ensure that citizen resources are used in the most cost effective way possible.

 

For several meetings now, the County Commission has had Resolution 2014-137, a contract for employee benefit consulting with Garry & Associates, on its agenda for approval. http://webdocs.claycogov.com/resord/docserv.php?id=2014-137 Commissioner Ridgeway has asked for more information before renewing the contract with Garry & Associates.  Ridgeway’s request is that a contract amendment be made that will allow more transparency in this agreement – and all future contracts the Presiding Commissioner signs on behalf of Clay County taxpayers.

 

Before Garry & Associates, the County had a contract with CBiz for employee benefit consulting. The County’s $38,500 contract with CBiz was replaced last year after a meeting that occurred behind closed doors on June 3, 2013. The replacement contract was a $90,000 contract awarded to Garry & Associates. Yes, $51,500 more than what the County was paying to CBiz for the exact same services. This year the contract with Garry & Associates is proposed to be renewed for $91,890.

 

This means Clay County taxpayers are paying an additional $51,500 each year for the benefit consultant alone. If citizens were saving that much or more on the amount the County pays for employee benefits, that would justify the County Commission’s decision last year to spend the extra money with Garry & Associates. However, citizens actually are paying 6% more for County employees’ health insurance this year.  This is approximately $260,000 in added costs to taxpayers on top of the $51,500. http://webdocs.claycogov.com/resord/docserv.php?id=2013-349

 

Joshua Garry, the owner of Garry & Associates, contributed $1,000 on 9/14/12 to Gene Owen’s campaign for Commissioner and $650 on 4/9/2008.

 

It has cost Clay County taxpayers more than $310,000 this year to pay back yet another friend of this County Commission.

It may pay to be a friend of this County Commission, but if you are a taxpayer, it could become very expensive. Clay County taxpayers are being used to pay back the Commissioners friends and campaign contributors.

On March 12, 2013 the County Commission entered into a contract with CPA firm Meara Welch Browne to audit the County’s financial statements. Of all the firms that submitted proposals, Meara Welch Browne was the only one that had NO (zero) technical experience with governmental financial statement audits. Their submitted proposal wasn’t the low bid either. At $95,000 for the first year, it was actually the second highest bid that the County received.

Cochran Head Vick & Company submitted the low bid at $59,750. Not only were they the low bid, they have tons of experience with governmental financial statement audits. Even more importantly, they have experience with Clay County. They audited the County’s financial statements for many of the last twelve years. As a matter of fact, they were the county’s CPA firm and provided key evidence when Vic Hurlbert resigned from the county Auditor position after being investigated by a special prosecutor.

The county received 5 proposals in response to its request for proposals for outside financial auditing services after it extended the deadline to submit proposals 5 different times. The last day to accept proposals finally ended on January 31, 2013, the same day that Meara Welch Browne submitted their proposal.

During one of the audit meetings with the outside auditor, I apologized to the Audit Manager for the Commission not awarding the contract until mid-March, causing the CPA firm to get such a late start on our audit. Her response was that it was okay because the Commission had to keep extending the bid because she hadn’t gotten the proposal in and Meara Welch Browne was going to get the job. I was stunned.

So why did Meara Welch Browne get the contract at a cost of $35,250 annually more than the lowest and best bid received? It may be because Julie Welch, one of the firm’s partners is very good friends with Commissioner Mason’s husband, Vic Hurlbert. They went to college together. It may be because Welch contributed $250 to Vic Hurlbert’s unsuccessful campaign for State Representative on 3/1/2012. It may be because Welch contributed $300 to Gene Owen’s 2008 campaign for Commission on 6/2/2008. It could even be because Welch contributed $50 to Pam Mason’s unsuccessful campaign for KCMO city council in 2007 and then on 1/20/2011 to Mason’s campaign for Commissioner. I don’t know the reason, but I do know it is costing the citizens of Clay County more than $35,000 each year of unnecessary expenditures to pay Mason’s friend. You can see the report that Channel 41 did here http://www.kshb.com/news/region-missouri/clay-county/clay-county-auditor-claims-accounting-firm-changed-county-financial-statements

Mason skirted around the state ethics laws by abstaining from the actual vote. Only Owen and Ridgeway officially voted on this contract. There was very little public discussion before this contract was awarded. If my memory serves me correctly, the only discussion involved a comment by Commissioner Mason saying that this firm was being picked for its experience with forensic accounting and Commissioner Ridgeway commenting on the fact that the firm had moved its office to the state of Kansas to avoid income taxes.

If you are interested in looking at the contract and the list of CPA firms that submitted bids, you can see it here http://webdocs.claycogov.com/resord/docserv.php?id=2013-84.

The campaign contributions can be seen, as reported by the campaign committees, at the Missouri Ethics Commission website here http://www.mec.mo.gov/EthicsWeb/CampaignFinance/CF12_ContrExpend.aspx