They seem fairly sure that a forensic audit isn’t necessary at this point, but the Board of Commissioners is being cautious with taxpayers’ money while still seeking answers to long-term budgetary questions posed by the grand jury. However, the grand jury has fallen silent on the matter.
The board held an interview for prospective auditing firm McLendon and Associates on Tuesday. The goals were double-fold: to both interview Rachel McLendon for the possible work ahead and to specify for her, at the company’s request in their bid letter, the scope of work proposed.
In a memo composed by C.F.O. Faye Harvey and read by Board Chair Rob Jones, the board stated they’d spoken to members of the community to see what direction to take and decided how to proceed from there. The work was more detailed than the original “forensic audit” request that started this chain of events. That grand jury presentment by both the board’s admission as well as McLendon’s was vague.
The goals were set as tracking budgetary increases and decreases for each department to the “legal level of control”; increases and decreases in debt; increases and decreases in capital expenditures; and a projection of millage rates had the fund balance remained constant and fund reserves hadn’t been used to cover expenditures. Also economic trends would be taken into account and any outstanding debts carried over from previous administrations.
McLendon pointed out the differences between what they’re proposing and a forensic audit. She stated a forensic audit is seeking misappropriations or bad bookkeeping. That process involves interviewing departments and looking at every transaction made. She estimated that to cost between $50-60,000 for each year examined. As the process is now proposed they will be able to determine if there is anything questionable within budgets to see if reasonable cause exists for a forensic audit.
Should the deal be finalized, McLendon would require a $25,000 retainer fee that would be billed against until the retainer fee is exhausted. They would have a team of three from their company who would work closely with the county’s finance department and report directly to Commissioners Denney and Barnes. Due to his two terms as sole commissioner, Jones asked to be involved minimally to keep the integrity of the work above-question.
“I don’t want any misconceptions from the public that I’m having any undue influence on you or what numbers you’re pulling up.”
McLendon anticipated the cost to the county would be between $50-85,000 should no discrepancies arise. They discussed that should any problems be uncovered anywhere in the process McLendon would then report those to the board so they can examine the issue and vote to approve the additional fees ahead of time. That conservative approach would ensure taxpayers’ money is spent wisely and appropriately.
Also in a conservative manner, once the initial on-site assessment is done, as the process moves on the company will have the ability to request financial records be transmitted through Dropbox, saving travel expenses.
FYN made numerous attempts by phone and in person to contact the grand jury’s foreperson Nancy Maddox and assistant foreperson Xaviere Chatagnier to assess whether the current direction is in-line with the request but they have failed to respond.
The interview with Rachel McLendon may be seen in its entirety below: