Questions continue

Published 10:51 am Wednesday, November 22, 2017

JACKSON – Retired Northampton County Finance Officer Dot Vick spoke here during the public comment portion of Monday night’s Board of Commissioners meeting to continue explaining the concerns she had about the county’s delayed 2015-16 fiscal year financial audit.

At the end of each Northampton County Commissioners meeting, citizens wishing to make comments or ask questions have three minutes to speak before the board. Chairman Robert Carter reminded citizens of the time limit before the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting got underway. He also explained that questions directed to the Board will be answered in the form of a written response sent at a later date.

“I want to continue with where I left off on October 16,” said Vick who had begun detailing her concerns to the Board last month.

During public comment at the October meeting, Vick, who retired from her position as Finance Officer on August 31, 2015, addressed matters such as the delay in hiring new auditors, budget amendments being submitted for approval after the close of the fiscal year, and a delay in posting county revenue. In comments after the meeting, Vick also questioned why the county needed to hire a CPA firm to correct alleged problems with the bank reconciliation.

Vick’s concerns stemmed from an article printed by the News Herald in July which detailed the reasons for the audit delay as explained by the County Manager Kim Turner. Turner stated a reconcilement error in prior years was a part of the reason why the county needed outside help to get the audit information in order.

“It was my job for the last 27 years to get the books ready for the auditors,” Vick said on Monday night. “I did the same thing until I left that I had always done. I balanced every bank account with the general ledger through June 30 [2015] except one. That was balanced through April 30 [2015].”

Vick’s next point concerned the Greg W. Isley CPA firm which was hired in March 2017 to help look into the aforementioned reconcilement error and assist the finance office.

Vick noted there was no decision paper listed in the board minutes for the March 20, 2017 meeting, so she did not understand why the Isley CPA firm was chosen over another which had also responded to assist in the work. The minutes, however, do include a letter from the CPA firm detailing their work agreement.

That letter stated, as Vick pointed out, the firm would do the work for the price of $210/hour for CPAs, $110/hour for non-CPAs, and would be capped at $30,000.

“That’s what the taxpayers are paying to get the bookkeeping and whatever he was doing,” Vick continued. “I don’t know exactly when he started, but I know he was still working in October.”

Vick also said the contract with the CPA firm had been extended, but she could not find any evidence of that recorded in the Board’s minutes. She speculated the information could be contained in the minutes for the August 7, 2017 meeting which had not yet been posted online.

“I just want the people who’ve asked me, the people who’ve questioned what’s going on and made comments, to know what we’re paying to get this—whatever they’re doing—done,” Vick said as her allotted three minutes concluded.

She wrapped up her brief presentation by asking when the August 7 minutes would be available online, and requested to know why the current CPA firm had been chosen over the other.

Commissioner Carter thanked Vick for her comments and said they would send her a response to her questions soon.

County Manager Kim Turner addressed the audit delay and finance office problems in an article printed by the News Herald in October. At that time, Turner stated the finance office workload fell behind due to a combination of issues such as employee turnover and incomplete training. They hired the CPA firm to examine the county’s records to determine if, in fact, there were any issues with the prior years’ accounting records.