JOPLIN— The Missouri state auditor will study the Joplin school district, which has been the target of a petition campaign seeking an audit after receiving an influx in donations after the May 2011 tornado.
State Auditor Tom Schweich announced Monday that his office will audit the district at the request of Joplin superintendent C.J. Huff, which will make a Joplin businessman's petition drive seeking an audit unnecessary, The Joplin Globe reported.
"As I told district officials in 2011, we have always planned to do an audit of the Joplin Schools, and Superintendent C.J. Huff has asked us to do the audit now," Schweich said in his statement. "By commencing the audit under our general authority to audit school districts, our office will pay the costs associated with the audit. A petition is no longer necessary."
Huff said he asked for the audit in part to avoid costs related to the petition-driven audit, which state officials estimated would cost the district between $70,000 and $100,000. He said district officials have expected to be audited because of the volume of donations the district received to help rebuild schools damaged or destroyed by the tornado.
"I'm just glad we're getting a chance to get this started," he said Monday. "We always were very conscientious about how we handled our funds. We look forward to working with the auditor with what are we doing well and what do we need to shore up."
Joplin businessman David Humphreys, chief executive of TAMKO Building Products, who started the petition drive, said the effort would likely end now that Schweich planned to audit the district.
"I am pleasantly surprised by the announcement and assume that the scope and completeness of the audit will be the same as would have inevitably been required through the petition process," he said. "Assuming that is the case, signature gathering for the petition to audit the school district will end as soon as it is confirmed a full audit will be undertaken."
Humphreys said he started the petition drive to audit the school — and a separate effort to audit the city of Joplin — to ensure taxpayers had a clear understanding of how public money is being spent. He has said he had no personal knowledge of any wrongdoing.