he City of Parkville has ignited some red alerts, if you will. The city raised another red flag this week by using taxpayer dollars to produce and mail a letter that in effect begs Parkville residents not to sign the petition to request a state audit.
Wait, what happened? What happened to Mayor Nan Johnston’s claims from last spring? Last March, Nan said on Facebook that the City of Parkville would welcome a state audit. In fact, Nan even went as far as to say on Facebook that city staff was diligently working to see if it would be possible for the city to self-request a state audit. “We have nothing to hide,” was the message she was distributing.
I guess Nan wasn’t exactly being truthful with us. Color me shocked.
This week, Mayor Nan Johnston, City Administrator Joe Parente and the entire board of aldermen produced and mailed–at taxpayer expense–an “open letter to Parkville residents” that basically pleads citizens not to sign the petition.
That doesn’t sound like a move that a group with “nothing to hide” would feel the need to make. No. In fact, that feels like a move by a group that fears the petitioners are on to something.
“You may receive a request to sign a petition calling for a state audit of the City of Parkville. If performed, the cost of this audit would be paid for by the taxpayers of Parkville. The audit expenses can be significant–other local governments in Missouri have paid costs ranging from $30,000 to $100,000 for their audits. Before you consider signing the petition, please take the time to review information the city has compiled addressing the petition initiative directly, including information describing government financial and ethical safeguards currently in place. The information may be found at ParkvilleMo.gov/AuditPetitionInfo,” says part of the 1.5 page letter.
The letter goes on to point out insignificant things, such as the fact that the city has an annual audit of financials, etc. As we’ve reported previously, those annual audits are nothing–nothing–like the review the city would undergo in a state audit.
The state review has the power to look at all functions of government–including legitimate transparency concerns and concerns over the use of tax incentives, to name just a couple.
Parkville using city resources to try to discourage folks from signing the petition comes just a couple days after Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway penned an open letter to residents of Clay County telling them not to be intimidated when it comes to the state audit going on in Clay. “No one should be reluctant to speak out against improper or illegal use of taxpayer money,” the state auditor writes.
This morning (Wednesday) I left a voicemail with Steph Deidrick, press secretary for Galloway, asking to get a reaction from the state auditor in regard to the “open letter” being distributed by Parkville officials. On Thursday, Deidrick answered this way:
“Petitioners in Parkville have until Oct. 7, 2020 to collect the 537 valid signatures required. If they do so, this office will conduct an independent and professional review of city operations and finances.”
In a follow-up, The Landmark has asked the state auditor’s office for a reaction more specific to Parkville’s distribution, at taxpayer expense, of a letter that in effect tries to discourage citizens from signing the petition. We’ll keep you posted.
Here’s some reaction from someone who supports the state audit initiative.
“This is little more than the city’s elected officials using taxpayers’ money to discourage those same citizens from exercising their First Amendment rights,” said Jason Maki from Citizens for a Better Parkville.
“An added irony here is that the city’s rationale (for not signing the petition) turns on the city’s trustworthiness. The entire purpose of the impending audit is to verify the city’s actions and decisions,” Maki said. “The effort seems like a strange thing to spend the money and time doing if they truly have nothing to hide.”
The topic of racism among the student body has grown traction at Platte County R-3.
Platte County R-3, you have a problem. Lack of strong leadership at the top–and by the top, I mean school board–leads to a rudderless ship. For all the wrong reasons, the district has found itself in the national news three times in the past six months or so. This is what happens when heads are buried in the sand, more focused on pushing a narrative of “we have a great school district” rather than actually focused on providing the leadership necessary to produce a respected school district.
There needs to be accountability at the top of the leadership chain. Again, that starts with the school board.
The top (the school board) isn’t demanding accountability from administrators. The top is focused on deflecting and denying. The top is doing things like paying an administrator $275,000 to go away after he sends inappropriate tweets to a young school shooting survivor/gun control activist. The administrator was an employee who violated the district’s social media policy. He should have been fired, not paid $275,000 to just go away via a “separation agreement,” a document that the school district is now inappropriately trying to hide from the taxpayers who paid that $275,000 gift to Dr. Chad Searcey.
That’s not demanding accountability. And students aren’t blind to this. When the student body can see administrators in the district not being held accountable, can see weakness in the very people who are supposed to be providing discipline and leadership, then dangerous attitudes can permeate the entire school system.
These negative major news stories focusing on things that have happened at Platte County R-3 are getting embarrassing. It’s time to stop pretending things are fine and deal with reality.
School board, do your job. Show some stones. Clean it up.
(Get more Between the Lines on Twitter @ivanfoley and follow Foley on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. Email firstname.lastname@example.org)