Audit raises nepotism questions for Cass County clerk

Burlingame paid family members, awarded bonuses outside of W-2 payroll system

July 25, 2012 

The Cass County prosecutor is reviewing an audit that shows possible nepotism and pay violations by County Clerk Janet Burlingame.

According to the audit, Burlingame's husband was paid more than $5,500 and her son more than $1,600 to transport voting equipment for elections going back to 2003.

Such infractions could lead to Burlingame's departure from office, a scenario that could pose election night problems this close to the Aug. 7 primary. The county clerk's office is responsible for running elections.

The July 12 report also alleges that Burlingame, a Democrat, awarded more than $56,000 in bonuses to four staffers for election duties they were expected to do anyway. By paying the bonuses outside the W-2 payroll system, using instead 1099 tax forms, appropriate taxes and state pension obligations may not have been paid.

“Upon review, the auditor's office could not find any documentation to prove the above payments for retirement, taxes or obligations were paid,” the report says.

Cass County Auditor Ron Johnson, a Republican, declared Burlingame to have violated the nepotism law.

Burlingame, 50, who has worked in the clerk's office for 32 years, the last 10 as clerk, was in her office Tuesday but did not return a telephone call from The Star, or the Democrat-Missourian on Wednesday.

No action is expected until next week.

"The prosecutor is looking at it and is moving forward prudently," Johnson said.

If Burlingame were to be ousted, it would be the second such removal this month for the Kansas City area.

On July 13, a Platte County judge removed the mayor of Tracy for hiring her son-in-law to do repair work for the city. Rita Rhoads had been mayor since 2008.

The Cass County audit found 20 “vendor” payments to Burlingame's husband, Chad, for election work going back to April 2003. They ranged from $229 to $335.36 for a total of $5,577.05.

Derek Burlingame, the son, received 22 payments ranging from $40 to $210 for a total of $1,670 for the same time span.

The payments to both family members stopped in 2010.

The audit showed the four employees each received bonuses totaling about $14,000 in the past 10 years. Those payments ended in 2011.

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