Chamber Plans Responses to Criticisms in State Audit of Joplin

Chamber Plans Responses to Criticisms in State Audit of Joplin
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The state auditor report of Joplin was critical of the Joplin area chamber of commerce, from its funding to its president.

Chamber officials says the auditors claims are untrue.

Staff at the chamber of commerce office and its leader Rob O’brian are going through the audit of Joplin line by line after the auditor raised questions about work hiring the master developer and its relationship with the city. Points the chamber says are inaccurate.

Chamber communications director Kirstie Smith says, “We’re going to answer or respond to the auditors statements in her audit and we will have documentation to back up our points.”

The auditor implied the hiring of the master developer was biased. And said chamber director Rob O’Brian visited David Wallace before he was hired.

Smith says, “That’s one of the things we’re looking at. We’re looking at the dates. We’re looking at the trips and the reasons Mr. O’brian actually took those trips i think that we will show that those reasons he went on those trips are not what the auditor stated.”

Chamber board of directors president David Glenn says he has confidence in O’brian and says the audit is full of holes. He says it has lots of maybe’s, can’s and could have’s, but no proof.

The auditor criticized O’brian for writing the requests for proposals template.

But Smith says that’s common. She says, “Request for proposals are a common part of the economic development business.”

The state audit criticized the city’s funding of the chamber. $342 thousand dollars for services, where cities of similar size get about half that amount.

Smith says it’s a worthwhile investment because, “Economic development is a very long involved process. Businesses and large manufacturers don’t just come to town overnight.”

City manager Sam Anselm explains the relationship. He says, “The reason the chamber does our economic development is because they are able to do things to attract, economic development to take place in the city that cities typically cannot do.”

The auditor criticized the cities payment for cell phones used by the chamber and paying for a portion of a mural. The city manager blames an outdated contract.

Anselm says, “The agreement that was signed with the chamber, I think in 1991, was pretty vague. And it was, I could argue, there was not enough information for staff to be able to measure the invoices and the reimbursements that were received from the chamber against the contract to make sure those they were appropriate expenses.”

A work session on the contract between the city and the chamber will be held Monday night. That work session begins at six o’clock in the council chambers.

Also the auditors presentation will be re-televised tonight on channel KGCS-TV at 7 o’clock.