Wednesday, August 19, 2015

O'Brian spins audit to Chamber members: We didn't do anything wrong

While he says he is still involved in an extensive review area of the just-released state audit for the City of Joplin, Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce President Rob O'Brian told Chamber members in an e-mail today that the audit did not reflect all of the good the Chamber did in the city following the tornado.

The e-mail did not address the audit's conclusion that O'Brian and others had steered the selection of a master developer toward Wallace-Bajjali except to say the committee did a thorough job in vetting the candidates.

No mention was made at all of the e-mail that O'Brian deleted in which David Wallace suggested that the city needed to hire a master developer.

The complete e-mail is printed below:

Dear Members,

I am writing to you regarding the just-released state audit of the City. As a contractor for economic development services to the City and a partner with the City on many ventures, the Chamber has been named in several points in the audit of the City.

While the City has had weeks to review and respond to the audit, we received a copy when the general public did last evening. We will do an in-depth review of the points in the audit, but want you to know a couple of things we see immediately.

The audit did not capture the extensive amount of time spent by many people, including some of your fellow Chamber members, who were doing what they could to help the City in its efforts to make progress post-tornado. A number of people were asked by the City to be on a task force to determine feasibility of hiring a master developer; this number included business people, bankers and educators as well as Chamber staff and ex-officio City staff. The task force set the process for determining interested developers and then vetted the respondents to determine the finalists. The full task force conducted lengthy in-person interviews with each of the finalists. The group then made its recommendations, including commentary on the finalists, to the City for its consideration.

You should also know your Chamber has a full CPA audit done every year. This includes the City funding for economic development. We have always had a clean audit by the auditors on both the Chamber and its Foundation. That audit is presented to the Chamber board of directors upon completion; a board that includes the city manager, mayor and education representatives. We also provided the state auditor copies for the two most recent years as requested.

Board Chairman David Glenn of Keller Williams and Chairman-Elect Karen Plott of Choice Marketing have seen and discussed the report with top staff and me. As we do more research we will keep you apprised.

As always, if you have questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at the office at any time.

Best regards,



Anonymous said...

Yea well. As normal you OVERSTEPED you boundaries.

Just like BlueBuffalo dog food STINKS....... You said no smell......... You lie.....

Anonymous said...

Audits don't matter.

Anonymous said...

Update your resume, Robby

Anonymous said...

Chamber membership? Will allow to expire.
Won't be doing business with Keller Williams or Choice Marketing.
Who's next to support this untrustworthy individual?

Anonymous said...

After watching the local FOX News at 9, will not be doing business with Bill Fleischaker EVER. Poor city finance director couldn't speak without having the city manager there to hold her hand. Jordan Aubey and Lisa Olliges having a contest to see who can be a bigger bulldog.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone contacted the local media in League City, Texas to see how they are reporting on the audit? Maybe they can ask Mr. Rohr his response to the audit? Perhaps ask why he made the decisions he made? Does the taxpayers and voters in League City know they have a leader who makes very questionable decisions.

Anonymous said...

Why can't anyone say: We really screwed this one up. Please forgive us for all our mistakes.
Why does everyone have to try to spin it? The public would have so much more respect for him if Mr. O'Brian simply admitted that his head was in his ass this time.

Anonymous said...

7:12 PM: I just found this initial response from Rohr.

Anonymous said...

One ex chamber employee, ex wallace be jolly employee, Gary Box, has been very very quiet. He probably knows more than we will ever hear.

Anonymous said...

I am sick and tired of the Chamber(and O'Brian) continually failing to accept responsibility for their failures. Remember the Boomtown Days embezzlement by the Chamber VP....up until the day the story broke the Chamber promoted this event as a Chamber created event to support the revitalization of downtown by promoting the cultural arts (this was even stated on the official event website). But the day the embezzlement, by a Chamber executive, became public, the website was shutdown and O'Brian issued a statement basically diminishing their true role by claiming the Chamber had only provided volunteers. Hard to imagine that a minor volunteer would be given unrestricted sole access to the checking account.

Mr. O'Brian's attempt to muddy the waters by claiming the audit report did not reflect the good work done by the Chamber after the tornado is both ridiculous and insulting. The auditor's job is not to stroke the ego of the City's contracted service provider (the Chamber does that in plenty all by itself) and Mr. O'Brian's effort to diminish the value of the report is unacceptable and inappropriate. I cannot and will not a support a Chamber that does not recognize or appreciate a standard of ethics and values commensurate with my own. I hope the JACC Board hears my message.....I am but one of many, many voices who feel this way. If there is doubt, then poll the membership and make the results public.

Anonymous said...

Correct. This guy know things about this but nobody seems to be trying to get info.

Go after him, KOAM.

Anonymous said...

Check out pages 48-50 of the audit for details on the chamber, and the bottom of 53 for the city's response. In short, "The city did not properly monitor its contract with the Joplin Area chamber of Commerce and provides the chamber significantly more funding than some other cities.", $335,000 in fiscal year 2014. In more detail:

The contract was last updated in 1991, and it "requires the chamber to submit receipts, vouchers, or other documentation to verify the expenses for economic development."

As mentioned in the introductory sentence, the city doesn't have its eye on the ball. The chamber is required by the contract to file its independent audits with the city, hasn't been doing so, but did submit the last two years at the request of the auditor.

The chamber blindly submits some iffy bills and the city blindly pays them, for instance, a fixed 30% of their phone bill and 40% of their automobile and equipment expenses, without the required supporting documentation. The city doesn't look closely at the bills, for example, the chamber billed the city $448 for a breakfast meeting, all of which it payed despite the invoice indicating the chamber had also billed United Way for half of the bill.

There's nothing to indicate what the city is getting for the $35,000 in lobbying costs the chamber billed it for. There's more detail on costs incurred without prior knowledge of the city, questionable things like a mural the Finance Director does not know the location of, or why the city payed for half of it, buying capital equipment without explanation of why the city should pay for it, and the auditors caught a $450 overcharge for a smartphone.

Finally, according to the auditor, compared to other similar cities Joplin pays vastly most money. For fiscal year 2014, $342,645, vs. $185,000 for Jefferson City, $175,000 for St. Joseph, and $25,983 for Chesterfield. None of those 3 comparison cities are very much like Joplin, and maybe the chamber is doing good things for the city other than its role in retaining Wallace Bajjali, but I agree with the auditors that its relationship with the city needs examination.