Dearborn alderman, citing concerns over the town’s financial situation, says he wants the state auditor to do a thorough inspection of the city’s books, employment contracts and entire financial situation.
Alderman Bill Edwards is circulating a petition among Dearborn residents that would force a state audit. He needs 25% of the town’s 355 registered voters to sign the petition to force the action, and as of Tuesday he says he already has 86 of the 89 signatures needed.
He will eventually turn his petition into the state, and the petition will go through a verification process to ensure the signatures are of registered Dearborn voters.
Edwards, who is one of four members that comprise the town’s board of aldermen, says he is most concerned over the amount of money being spent on employee labor for the small town in northern Platte County.
Specifically, he takes issue with the employment contract of public works employee K.C. Davidson, who is guaranteed to be paid for 50 hours of work per week, with 10 hours at an overtime rate.
Edwards doesn’t believe it’s necessary for the city to be guaranteeing overtime hours. In total, the city’s public workers (two full time, one part-time) are getting paid for 96 hours per week.
“A town this size doesn’t have the work to justify it,” he told The Landmark on Tuesday.
He said he had discussions with the state auditor’s office before deciding to pursue the petition to bring about the audit.
Dearborn Mayor Delba McAuley and three aldermen—Donald Swanstone, Jr., Robert L. Carroll, and Lila Scrivener—recently distributed a letter to Dearborn residents opposing Edwards’ idea of a state audit.
“We are not concerned about an audit. We are concerned about the cost that will be incurred by the city for a state audit,” the letter said.
Edward says the state auditor’s office informs him the cost of the audit will be no less than $4,000 and no more than $8,000. He says he is not concerned about the cost because in his view, with the recommended changes that a state audit will bring, the city will be able to recover the cost of the audit in three to four months time.
After the audit is done, Edwards says the state will give recommendations to the city.
“The state will report back to the city and make recommendations, both written and verbal, to the town council,” he said.
The audit, he said, will address the 96-hour a week workload for the city’s outside employees, which Edwards says is considerably more than needed because the city has closed its water plant.
Dearborn discontinued operation of its own water plant when a connection to Kansas City water was completed several months ago.
McAuley says the 10 hours of overtime per week guaranteed to K.C. Davidson is needed to cover the time he spends on weekends “to manually fill the water tower.”
McAuley says she has had discussions with the Missouri Municipal League and with the city attorney in regard to the guaranteed overtime contract.
“They’ve told me if the work load mandated overtime, it was legal,” she said.
“I don’t think a state audit would find anything wrong. Maybe some inadvertent errors. . .but do I think they would find any discrepancies in our finances? No,” the mayor said.
She said if there is anything wrong, “it wasn’t done willfully.”
In the letter to Dearborn residents signed by McAuley, Scrivener, Swanstone and Carroll, they indicate that the state audit would be a waste of funds because the city is audited “on a yearly basis by a private firm, Karlin and Unger, certified public accountants.”
Edwards, however, says the annual city audit is a simpler process and not as detailed as the one the state will do.
The topic of controlling labor costs is not an issue brand new to the City of Dearborn. Former Mayor Marvin Landes gave it as the reason for his resignation last summer.
Landes resigned as mayor when he says he saw a lack of support from the board of aldermen in controlling city finances, specifically money being spent on its public works employees.
Landes wanted overtime to have proper authorization and not be guaranteed.
Edwards was not on the board at that time. He was recently elected as a write-in candidate.
Edwards’ push for a state audit was scheduled to come up at a meeting Monday night, but that meeting had to be postponed when the board could not muster a quorum.
Three of the four aldermen must be present for Dearborn’s board to hold a meeting. Alderman Donald Swanstone, Jr. was reported to be hospitalized and Alderman Lila Scrivener was out of town Monday, leaving the board short of a quorum.
McAuley on Tuesday said city officials have tentatively set a new meeting time for next Monday, June 21 at 7 p.m. She explained that time is still considered “tentative” because “from the best I can see it takes a mayor and two aldermen to call a meeting.”
McAuley and Carroll have agreed on the Monday, June 21 date but as of Tuesday were still waiting for at least one more alderman to confirm the plan.
Edwards said he anticipates the meeting will be held Monday, June 21, and indicated that he will have more information to be discussed.