The citizen group advocating for a state audit of the city of Columbia’s finances has shifted its focus to an audit by a private company in an attempt to be more cooperative with the city.

Performance Audit Support, a Facebook group, was trying to collect 5,000 or more signatures from citizens by November to force a state audit, according to previous Missourian reporting. City Manager John Glascock, however, discussed the idea of an audit by a private company with the Columbia City Council during an Oct. 7 work session.

Maria Oropallo, the leader of Performance Audit Support who also chairs the city’s Finance and Audit Advisory Committee, said Mayor Brian Treece during that meeting suggested that Glascock works with her group as the city prepares to hire a private firm. The group announced the cancellation of its petition drive for a state audit the next day.

Oropallo said her other group, Transparency Matters, will watch to ensure the private performance audit is carried out properly.

Oropallo said an audit by a private firm was suggested because city officials might have perceived a petition for a state audit as an antagonistic act by citizens who don’t trust the city.

“I’m fine with it,” Oropallo said. “It should have always been the City Council. I never wanted it to be a citizen petition.”

Oropallo said the shift toward a private company will create a better relationship between the city and its citizens.

“When you hire somebody, rather than it being imposed on you, the relationship is a little bit different,” she said.

Oropallo said Glascock has identified 12 possible private companies that would audit the city and is writing a request for proposals so that the council members can discuss how to move forward.

Oropallo also said Glascock told her the Finance and Audit Advisory Committee will have a chance to review the request for proposals once it has been drafted.

She said she refrained from discussing a potential state audit during the committee meetings while she was collecting signatures to avoid a conflict.

Steven Sapp, the city’s director of community relations, said Glascock wants to refrain from commenting on an external audit until the request for proposals is issued. Oropallo said she doesn’t know when her committee will get to review it.

She said an outside review of the city’s finances and performance will produce a fair audit.

“We’re going to get more cooperation,” she said. “I think we’re going to get more constructive reports that we can use.”

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

  • I am a Public Life advanced reporter at the Columbia Missourian, pursuing a master's degree at the Missouri School of Journalism. You can reach me at hkono@mail.missouri.edu.

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