Kevin Roach calls for redefining office of state auditor
GOP candidate calling for biggest upgrade in 40 years
Republican candidate for state auditor Kevin Roach has made reshaping the office for the 21st century as his main platform in his primary campaign, advocating a much more active role that would engage government entities statewide at all levels.
“The state auditor audits less than 100 government subdivisions in a year,” Roach said. “That’s an illusion of accountability. We need to connect with all 3,700 governmental bodies every year to determine where we should look further.”
Those governmental bodies include 1,100 towns, over 500 school districts, community improvement districts, road districts, ambulance districts, library districts etc.
“I want all 3,700 governments to have their budgets and monthly expenses online,” Roach said. “People, taxpayers and reporters have been forced to do too many Sunshine requests in a year. We need to raise the standard for what’s online. Where we’re starting now is zero. People have to do Sunshine requests to get basic information. We need a leader and a manager as auditor, someone who is determined. It’s a big job. People are depending on us to get the job done.”
Roach, 36, is one of four candidates running for the Republican nomination to take on Democrat Nicole Galloway in November. A Washington University graduate, he owns a real estate company and a software development company and consults on performance issues. He lives in Ballwin and has served on that town’s city council as alderman for the past three years.
He credits his determination to coming from a family background where his grandfather and three brothers all worked in law enforcement, and his father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all Marines.
Roach has a track record of undertaking major tasks. He created the online service judgebook.com, which provides access to information on city, county and state and federal judges, some of which required creating software to access information. Just acquiring names took digging, he noted, as some of the judges serving on the Alien Terrorist Removal Court were not sure they were on it, and one Roach found still listed was dead
He won a three-year legal fight in federal district court and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to allow the “Choose Life” license plate to become available in Missouri, prevailing over Attorney Generals Jay Nixon and Kris Coster.
Roach wanted budget documents from the University of Central Missouri, which has not been audited for at least 20 years. Denied access, he walked from Ballwin to Warrensburg, taking two and a half weeks, and got the documents he wanted.
“Missouri has the seventh largest number of government entities in the nation,” Roach said. “I’m the only person [in the race] talking about the 3,700 government entities. I want to do the first ever budget assessment of all of them. I think it’s around $50 billion, another $22 billion on top of the $28 billion state budget.
“I’m talking about modernizing the [state auditor] operation that will have benefits that will last generations. We keep auditing the tip of the iceberg, and saying there is no more to the iceberg. There’s a huge potential benefit to the taxpayer to examine the whole thing.”
Roach said the last time the state auditor’s office was upgraded was when Christopher “Kit” Bond served in 1971. He stressed that level of sophistication is woefully inadequate for a digital age.
“It’s easy enough to get a tax bill,” Roach said. “It should be that easy to get a government budget and their expenses. It’s a two-way street. People like the idea of having all that stuff online. It’s a modern idea. Sunshine requests are a runaround. We need to put an end to that.
“In my first week in office, I will send a bulk letter that tells every government entity, ‘You are subject to audit at any time.’ That’s something they’ve never been reminded of. Some who ignore the auditor’s office will go on a list they don’t want to be on. I will also call for an audit of the state auditor’s office.”
Through these efforts, Roach hopes to expose and correct government that is not working. He pointed to the state crime lab with its enormous backlog of cases as a prime example. By the time the state crime lab produced a toxicology report on a driver responsible for the death of another motorist in Ballwin, a 49-week delay, the subject was found in jail on additional charges.
Roach cited a public administrator in Callaway County who did not know the status of the people in his custody. One was found dead in a block of concrete in a storage unit when authorities went to locate him.
“We have audited four public administrators in the last 20 years,” Roach said. “We need to be touching base with these 3,700 government entities so they know someone is watching.
“There was an industrial boiler explosion in St. Louis last year where people were killed. Not surprisingly, St. Louis was able to regulate boilers differently from anywhere else in Missouri. We wouldn’t know that without that explosion. We need to audit the Department of Public Safety. What if we could audit it and find that out before something else blows up? People who approved these things 50, 60 years ago are gone. Unless you’re really interested in boilers, you’re not looking at that. The list is endless.”
Roach said the state is approaching audits the way Gerald Ford would expect them to be done.
“That resonates with people when they realized it’s been too long since the last update,” he said. “Government systems have grown so big and so large that they’ve eclipsed everything that has come before them. We can show people, ‘This is what you’re paying for. Do you want it this way?’”
Roach also argued that audits should be written for the public to read. The state auditor can add discretionary work to make the document format more understandable.
“If it’s too confusing, or not helpful, it’s not a good report,” he said. “It’s for the people to decide if this is the government they want for themselves.”
The campaign for auditor has been quiet and civil, Roach said. He argues that none of the others are talking about the breadth of what the auditor has the authority to do or focusing on all 3,700 government bodies. By continuing past practices, he said his opponents are perpetuating the illusion of accountability, and the sense of impunity that governments are above providing answers.
“As auditor, I will be all over Missouri all the time,” Roach said. “I genuinely like traveling and meeting people. The more visible the auditor is, the better it is for the taxpayer. You have to have the mind of an investigator to lead this office. You have to know how big the job is to get started in the right direction.”