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Missouri state auditor issues scathing report of Joplin's dealin - KOAM TV 7

Missouri state auditor issues scathing report of Joplin's dealings with Wallace Bajjali

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The City of Joplin has earned a "poor" rating from the Missouri State Auditor's Office.

The Missouri state auditor, Nicole Galloway, says the City of Joplin did not ensure there was unbiased action coming from city volunteers who worked in the beginning stages of selecting a master redeveloper after the Joplin tornado.  The auditor says the city did not ensure those volunteers explained why they chose a certain master redeveloper.

The city's master developer request for proposal was issued in December of 2011.  But before the proposal was even issued to the public for consideration among interested developers, Chamber of Commerce President Rob O'Brian and another chamber employee, Gary Box, traveled to Houston, Texas to meet with Wallace Bajjali workers.

Wallace Bajjali submitted 11 letters of intent for the master redeveloper position, before the concept of a master developer was even presented to City Council.

The auditor questioned why Wallace Bajjali was chosen, when other developers who bid for the project had more experience with no litigation.  

References for Wallace Bajjali said stay as far away as you can from them, and that Joplin would be making a huge mistake to be involved with them.

The state auditor said terms of the predevelopment agreement between the city and Wallace Bajjali had excessive contract termination fees, and unfairly benefited the master developer.  There was no master plan from Wallace Bajjali the city could show the auditor.

Additionally, the auditor found the city paid one million dollars for the Wallace Bajjali project to a third party, without even first getting formal authorization from a partner of Wallace Bajjali.

In a response to the auditor's report, city officials say the city will endeavor to make sure a committee is independent, free of any conflicts of interest, and follows an independent selection process.  The city will take additional steps to ensure a bid selection process is fair and equal for all bid requests.  City officials also say it is well established that the contract with Wallace Bajjali did a poor job of protecting the city, but city staff was not allowed sufficient time to properly review the agreements.

The auditor pointed out that among the items submitted by David Wallace to the city for reimbursement, but ended up being denied by the city's finance director, were:  A pair of men's dress shoes costing $161.  David Wallace, Costa Bajjali, and an affiliate flew into Tulsa, Oklahoma on July 1, 2012, and traveled to Springfield, Missouri to spend the night (hotel costs totaling $333), where Wallace purchased the shoes.  They all traveled back to Joplin for a meeting the next day.  Hotel costs incurred in Arkansas on September 6, 2011 (approximately 4 months prior to the issuance of the city's request for master redeveloper bids), which included in-room movies costing $19.

Also denied by the city's finance director were alcohol drinks costing $155 purchased on November 15, 2012.  The invoice for the drinks indicated David Wallace, Costa Bajjali, Councilman Mike Woolston, former City Manager Mark Rohr, CART Chairperson Jane Cage, and chamber employee Gary Box were in attendance. 

The auditor will meet again with city officials to organize the time for a follow-up audit.

For the full audit report, click here.

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