One of challenger Melanie Bach’s key campaigning points in her run for Springfield mayor is a law allowing for the hiring of an internal investigator at City Hall.
In her attempt to unseat incumbent Ken McClure, Bach wants to fill an investigator position referenced in the Springfield City Charter. The mayor, meanwhile, says Springfield has adequate financial controls, and that Bach is wrong in her assertion that the job must be filled.
“My statement is trust is imperative, but correct information is equally imperative,” McClure said.
Bach notes that the last city investigator left the role to take a job with the Springfield-Branson National Airport, and no longer works for the City of Springfield.
“This position has been vacant since 2013,” Bach said. “Kristy Bork was the last one to fill it. It is one of only three positions directly hired and controlled by City Council — city clerk, city manager and investigator.”
Bach referred to Section 2.15 of the Springfield City Charter, which lays out the provisions for the City Council appointing an investigator.
A 2014 piece in the Springfield News-Leader chronicles the city investigator position, and it also refers to in-house auditing. The charter was adopted in 1953. An internal auditor was hired in 2008, following a petition-driven state audit. Bork was hired in 2010, but it’s noted that her title was “internal auditor.”
Bork’s old LinkedIn profile and a 2022 press release from her new employer, the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority, both note that her position was called “internal auditor.”
In the charter, the word “investigator” is specifically used.
Section 2.15. – Investigator. (Click for full text)
The council may appoint an investigator who shall serve for such term as the council may prescribe. He shall be a certified public accountant or a person specially trained and experienced in governmental or business investigation or administration. His duty shall be to keep the council informed as to the work performed, methods, and financial affairs of the city. He shall not be responsible for the keeping of accounts. He shall make such investigations of the work of all departments of the city and such reports to the council as it shall require. He shall make such other investigations as the council may direct. He shall have access to all books and records of all departments of the city. If the council desires, he shall certify to the correctness of any or all financial reports before the same shall be regarded as official.
Bach said the law would allow an investigator to go beyond finances, and investigate directives given within the scope of the city government’s operations.
“I think if we hire that person we need to task them with 100-percent transparency and creating a financial dashboard, so we can make sure that all of our tax dollars — we know where they’re going to, where they’re coming from, and that will go a long way,” Bach said.
Two of the key words in the charter provision are “may appoint.” McClure notes there is a difference between “may appoint” and “shall appoint.”
“There has been much incorrect information on this question,” McClure said. “First, the city does have an internal auditor and has had for years. We contract with one. The audits are on the website.”
The yearly audit is called for in the Springfield City Charter.
Section 2.14. – Annual audit. (Click for full text)
An independent audit shall be made of all accounts of the city government at least annually, and more frequently if deemed necessary by the council. Such audit shall be made by a certified public accountant who is experienced in municipal accounting and who is selected by the council. Such accountant shall have no personal or financial interest, direct or indirect, in the fiscal affairs of the city government or of any of its officers. The results of such audit shall be made public in such manner as the council may determine.
Outsourcing audits to an accounting firm is a common practice among city governments large and small. Springfield used a company called RSM US LLP for its last audit. RSM also audited the City of Columbia in 2022.
When it comes to internal control, McClure also points to the City Council Finance and Administration Committee. Two of that committee’s two key duties are to monitor the city’s internal audit plan and to manage the internal auditor, in this case, RSM.
“Andy Lear chairs our financial and administration committee, they’re all there,” McClure said. “It’s not correct to say we don’t have an internal auditor.”
The city’s 2022-2023 fiscal year budget contains a line item in the mayor and city council’s budget for auditing, for $85,349.96. The Springfield Finance Department also has a budget item for auditing and accounting services, for $58,228.