OBITUARIES: Decatur | Shoals | Huntsville
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Audit: LawCo finances need fix
By Jason Houston
For The Decatur Daily

MOULTON — An audit released Friday said the Lawrence County Commission needed to correct 14 areas for practices such as not reconciling bank accounts monthly and failing to pay bills on time.

The poor bookkeeping resulted in the county paying overdraft fees and other past-due charges, according to the audit for the 2009-10 fiscal year from the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts.

Many of the 14 findings were items that remained unresolved from the previous year. The examiners issued an adverse opinion for some of the county's financial statements, meaning they do not present fairly, in all material aspects, its financial position and the results of its operations.

For instance, the report said transfers in and out of various funds were out of balance by more than $1 million.

"The number of findings is fewer in this report, but the severity of the issues is still there," Commissioner Bobby Burch said. "We attended an exit interview last fall that made us aware there were still major issues. Based on that information, we've taken some major steps to get these items corrected going forward."

The commission voted in January to terminate County Administrator Peggy King, and commissioners who supported the move pointed to consistently poor audits as one reason.

Previous commissioners, in office during the audited time, were invited to the exit conference but did not attend, according to the audit report. Commissioners Mose Jones, Prentis Davis, Joey Hargrove and Burch attended the meeting.

Hargrove said there are still problems with the county's bookkeeping practices, and that is why the commission voted last month to hire Galbreath and Associates to help develop corrective measures.

"I have no reason to believe it's anything criminal," he said. "It's just poor record keeping."

Among the 14 findings that the commission told auditors it is correcting:

  • Bank accounts were not reconciled monthly, fees for insufficient funds were paid on some bank accounts, the payroll fund had a negative cash balance, and documentation of some certificate of deposit balances wasn't available.

  • Numerous invoices were paid late, resulting in past due charges and fees.

  • Transfers in and out of various funds should agree but did not because of numerous recording errors.

  • State law allows county credit cards to be used for travel outside of the county, but statements contained charges for other than in-county travel.

  • State law prohibits counties from making payments when funds aren't available, but the county had deficit balances in four funds, including for the airport authority and gasoline tax.

  • The county didn't have an accurate list of capital assets. It also failed to calculate depreciation on capital assets, which could make the value of assets appear greater than they are.

  • Federal and state taxes withheld from employees' pay were not always submitted in a timely manner.

  • Accurate records weren't kept on equipment purchased with federal funds as required.

The entire audit is available for download at http://examiners.alabama.gov.

Jason Houston can be reached at 256-974-2106 or jason.houston@moultonadvertiser.com.

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