Returning control of City Hall to the People
COLUMBIA, Mo 3/5/14 (Beat Byte) --
Fed up with what he calls "non-transparent" city management and lack of public control over public funds, retired Columbia public works supervisor Bill Weitkemper
wants the Missouri State Auditor
to take a full, public look at City Hall.
His first step: organize a petition drive
that will call the Auditor into action.
"The conduct of several top city administrators is disgraceful," Weitkemper wrote in an open letter to supporters and media days after city manager Mike Matthes'
TIF plan failed. "They have no concept of the meaning of accountability. Their manipulation of city ordinances and misuse of public money is disturbing at best, and at worst could be illegal
The inaugural recipient of the Edward Robb Public Servant of the Year Award
, Weitkemper has doggedly pursued city utility billing and spending practices, notably discovering City Hall over-bills rate payers some $1 million annually to subsidize big business and Mizzou utilities
. He was also a candidate for 4th Ward Columbia City Council, running on a platform of open, transparent, and publicly-controlled city governance.
"For years, I have been trying unsuccessfully to get the attention
of city staff and the Council," Weitkemper said. "City administrators feel they can tell the public and the Council anything, and should be believed simply because of their position. I refuse to allow this unacceptable behavior to continue unchallenged."
By law, State Auditor Tom Schweich
has no jurisdiction over most local governmental entities until voters invite him via petition
or a request from the Governor. Missouri state statute requires
Weitkemper get at least 5,000 registered voters
to sign the petition -- and that City Hall pay for the audit.
"Anyone interested in proper governance of the political subdivision
can initiate a petition," the Auditor's website explains
After the Auditor receives a Request for Petition Audit form,
Weitkemper will become the "chief petitioner," circulating a signature sheet from that explains the estimated cost of the audit. Only registered voter residents of Columbia
may sign the form.
County Clerk Wendy Noren
verifies the signatures. If the number of signatures is less than required by law, the petition will return to Weitkemper and his team for more signatures. Once the petition is validated, the audit is activated.NEXT: What happens after the State Auditor receives a valid petition