Merriam Drainage District to consider bringing accountant on board to prepare for external audit

Merriam Drainage District Secretary Gerald Becker agreed to interview the potential accountant, John Martin, and update the district at the October meeting.

The Merriam Drainage District is considering hiring an accountant ahead of a prospective external audit. 

At the district’s board meeting last week, attorney Jim Orr said board members previously discussed conducting an audit, and in his experience, “if you don’t have an accountant on board, they’re probably going to say you need” one. Orr received accountant John Martin’s resume, who Orr said has the needed experience and suggested the board seek Martin’s professional recommendations. 

Merriam Drainage District Attorney Jim Orr said the district should hire an attorney prior to conducting an audit.

“Let Mr. Martin step in [and] see his recommendations and practices,” Orr said. “Then after that’s been underway for some time, talk about having an auditor come in and take a look at how things are going.” 

Secretary Gerald Becker asked for clarification about what services the district would need from Martin. Orr said it is his understanding that Martin would engage with the district’s recording secretary on big picture and long-term issues, such as the budget. 

Going Deeper

The Merriam Drainage District is a relatively obscure public body that oversees management of Turkey Creek through parts of Merriam, Shawnee and Overland Park. It has the authority to levy property taxes, just like a city or other public entity, and currently takes in about $200,000 per year from property owners. ‘Unbelievably dark’: Merriam officials say inner-workings of 60-year-old Merriam Drainage District aren’t transparent

Orr said there might be some monthly contact between Martin and the recording secretary for budget amendments, the annual budget and ensuring the district’s general practices are proper in terms of budget laws. Orr suggested a board member interview Martin to get an estimate of how much his services would cost.

Becker said he would be willing to interview Martin this week and report back at the next meeting. 

Chairman Eric Jackson clarified for Treasurer Sam Matier that the district is looking for consulting services at this time to get “in line before we do move forward with an audit.” 

Matier said one of the questions Martin should be asked is whether or not the drainage district needs a five- or 10-year plan, which is something a constituent brought to Matier’s attention. Matier said he doesn’t know if the district needs such a plan, and he’d rather rely on input from professionals. 

“I know a big city like Merriam needs one because they’re changing zoning laws and trying to balance things between residential and commercial — we don’t do a lot of that,” Matier said. “That’s just something to ask [Martin] his opinion.” 

The Merriam Drainage District’s next regular meeting will be on Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. Those who wish to attend the meeting can email the district at merriamdrainage@gmail.com and request a link.