COLUMBIA, Mo 5/7/18 (Beat Byte)
-- Columbia City Councilman Ian Thomas
) is accusing the city's police and firefighters of trying to "undermine local government" with their demands for a state audit of city finances.
"I believe in truth and transparency," Thomas emailed his 4th Ward constituents
Sunday, suggesting the city employees were lying about a $320 million bank account
City Hall maintains at the Union Bank of Switzerland, or UBS.
Also known as the "pooled cash account," it holds monies left over at the end of each year for use as city leaders see fit. It is not restricted,
according to the city's own financial reports, and was tapped to pay for the new City Hall
and other pet projects.
"A misleading mantra about a '$300 million Swiss Bank Account' is coming out of an 'echo chamber' involving the Columbia Heartbeat, Police Officers' Association, and Professional Firefighters," Thomas announced. "The purpose appears to be to undermine the credibility of our local government, and this misinformation is equally troubling to me."
Thomas' remarks echo a March 11 Hank Waters editorial
calling out Columbia Mayor Brian Treece
and city employees for using the audit to "discredit the city administration."
City Hall's unending quest for higher taxes, utility rates, fees, and fines first sparked questions about the UBS account. Audit demands followed from several groups and individuals over the past year. The UBS balance has grown from $110 million in 1998
, and is up $14 million
since Thomas last reviewed it.
The 4th Ward Councilman joins fellow Council members Mike Trapp, Matt Pitzer
and former PedNet colleague Chip Cooper
in condemning the state audit, which -- at an estimated $750,000 -- they characterize as "rushed" and "too expensive." In a Saturday Columbia Tribune column, Cooper
also scolded local Realtors for demanding the independent financial review.
At least one City Hall insider is declaring the audit "D.O.A.," thanks in large part to city manager Mike Matthes
. Matthes, the source said, has worked overtime to shut down the idea, blaming the Columbia Heart Beat and editor Mike Martin
for "driving a wedge" between his office and city employees.
Both Thomas and Cooper referenced unadvertised City Council work sessions about the audit and Swiss bank account. At the April 16 session, "members of the council and [Mayor] Treece had all their questions answered and walked away satisfied
that the city’s Pooled Cash Account is being used appropriately," Cooper wrote
in his Trib editorial.
Neither Thomas, Cooper, nor any city administrator has provided bank statements nor any accounting of UBS transactions over the years. They have also failed to explain why the balance keeps growing, at a rate of roughly $10 million annually.