Two Jackson County legislators on Monday said a $285,000 consultant’s report on options for a new jail is essentially worthless because of the extent to which the office of County Executive Frank White Jr. cut and rewrote it before publicly releasing a far shorter version a few weeks ago.
Theresa Galvin, chair of the Legislature, said the report by consultant Shive‐Hattery/HDR was initially more than 100 pages and the version released to the public was cut down to about 50, with four entire sections removed.
“So what version do we have?” she said Monday.
Legislator Dan Tarwater added, “I don’t trust it.” Asked if he thinks White’s office made the changes to drive county’s conversation toward building a smaller rather than larger new jail, Tarwater said “yes.”
Tarwater and White tangled for a moment during Monday’s legislative meeting. Tarwater brought up the changes to the report and said, “I’m sorry, but I do not trust the report.”
White interrupted Tarwater – “That’s not accurate,” he said over Tarwater’s comments three times – and then said, “Do you have proof?” and then, “I do not appreciate being called a liar.” Tarwater said he did not call White that.
Tarwater was asking about the consultant’s report that generally discusses plans for a new jail at a cost of $215 million to $230 million. That consultant was hired to help a task force White appointed to look into corrections options. That group issued its own report, filed in November but not released by White’s office until January, along with the Shive‐Hattery/HDR report.
Although Tarwater was asking about the consultant’s report, White stressed that the task force report was not changed.
One White aide told legislators that some information in the consultant’s report could be kept from the public under Missouri’s open-records law. Galvin said she understands that. Public disclosure of blueprints, for instance, would pose a security problem.
But the extent of the cuts is what legislators expressed concerns about.
“And that, I think, is the missing part. … I did not know about it,” Tarwater said.
“I can’t tell you to trust something you don’t want to believe,” White told him.
Legislator Crystal Williams said a lack of transparency is what gets the county into trouble time and time again.
“You know there would be a problem … if people thought something was being withheld,” she said.
“I think all of us have a bit of distrust that we need to get past, and this didn’t help,” Galvin added.
White said he’s focused on looking ahead.
“I refuse to keep visiting the past,” he told legislators.
“Well, it isn’t the past,” Galvin said after the meeting. “It was just a couple months ago.”
Officials are pressing ahead. White, Galvin and Sheriff Darryl Forte have announced a “working group” that they say will begin work on a new jail. That group meets March 21.