Parma Scandal Affirms: Mandatory Muni Checkbook Transparency Needed Now
The Missouri State Auditor’s Office has started July off with a bang, publishing an audit of Parma, Missouri, which found that “. . . [m]ore than $115,000 was taken fraudulently over a four-year period from the Missouri Bootheel city of Parma (pop. 713) through payroll overpayments and improper payments and purchases.” As the report notes, [Emphasis mine]
Our audit discovered that for almost the entire time the former mayor and former city clerk were in office, there was a pattern of blatant corruption and cover-up that cost the citizens of Parma more than $115,000,” Auditor Galloway said. “This was a betrayal of the public trust that requires accountability, and my office will continue our partnership with law enforcement to pursue justice for local taxpayers. . . .
The audit also estimated more than $7,000 in improperly recorded utility payments and adjustments to utility bills on the accounts of the mayor, water supervisor, the alderman who is the mayor’s father, an alderwoman, and a church. The city’s electronic utility system was destroyed in the city hall fire, but auditors were able to compile information for the audit from paper reports, bank statements and other documents.
The auditor’s full report can be found here.
We are hearing that among the items legislators are considering for a special session is a “Wayfair fix,” which notably would allow local governments to collect sales taxes on internet purchases. As we’ve said before, any such “fix” should be revenue neutral, but it’s become obvious that there should be another precondition: checkbook transparency. Any government wanting to tax the internet purchases of residents should be required, as a condition of such privilege, to regularly publish their transaction data with the state.
Show-Me Institute researchers have called for this transparency before, but Parma’s scandal reaffirms how pressing the initiative is, especially in these difficult economic circumstances where every dollar counts. If government can take your money through force, it should be telling you where it went. And if governments have to do that, well, hopefully we’ll have fewer Parmas in the future.