Posts Tagged ‘Meara Welch Brown’

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

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is how the saying goes. This saying is especially true right now in Clay County. They give contracts to their friends; like Meara Welch Brown and Garry & Associates. They give jobs to their friends; like Matt Thompson and Blake Scott. This County Commission has even created brand new positions for their friends.

In May 2013, Dale McCaslin was hired as the assistant director at the Clay County Airport. The newly created job paid $52,000 per year plus benefits. There was no job description for the job at the time he was hired and when he left the position at the end of 2013, after the situation was made public, the position was not refilled.

Dale McCaslin is the husband of former Clay County Treasurer, Carol McCaslin.

Carol McCaslin has been a long time, very close friend of Pam Mason. They take long lunches together, spend hours in meetings together, shop together, and plan their campaigns together.

McCaslin lost her bid for re-election in 2012 to Republican Ted Graves. Since leaving the Treasurer’s office, she has worked part time for Cathy Rinehart, the Clay County Assessor and in May of 2013, the County Commission hired Dale McCaslin into a newly created position at the Clay County Airport. Now she has filed as a Republican for County Auditor and her husband, and Dale McCaslin has filed as a Democrat.

I am certain that it took quite a bit of pressure from Pam Mason to get the McCaslins to file for County Auditor, but when you owe Pam Mason and Gene Owen so much, it is hard to say no. It is even more difficult to say no when you need a job.

Carol McCaslin, flipped parties to file as a Republican. I have spent a fair amount of time with Carol McCaslin over the past few years and she holds no ideological views that are consistent with the Republican party platform. I don’t know much about Dale McCaslin because politics have never really been his thing. When he has attended a political function, it has only been to support his wife.

The citizens of this county deserve some one in the auditor’s office that will work for them, not be a rubber stamp for the county commission. We need a voice that is able to say no when it is necessary. It is important that the County Auditor be independent and not owe anything to any other elected official. Both of the McCaslins are indebted to the County Commission and the County Assessor.