June 10, 2011 by wcobserver
By Susan McCarthy
Council Faces Questions about Audits
WEST FORK- City officials received certified letters two weeks ago summoning them to Little Rock to appear before the state’s Legislative Joint Auditing Committee to explain why the city has not been able to bring its audit reports up to date. Part of the discussion will likely include who will perform the audits after a signed contract with an accounting firm, surfaced months after the city council voted to request the State Legislative Audit Committee perform the audits at no charge.
The letters, dated May 19, summoned all eight members of West Fork’s City Council and Mayor Frances Hime to a meeting Thursday, June 9, at the state capital building in Little Rock. The May 19 letter also references a 2007 letter in which the Executive Committee told the City of West Fork to bring its audit reports up to date.
The city remains five years behind on a state-mandated annual financial audit. Last year, the city paid J. Timothy Fulmer, an accounting firm in Rogers, to complete two years of audits in a single year for the years 2004 and 2005.The reports were completed in October, 2010 and a member of the firm attended the December city council meeting to present the audits’ findings.
On Dec. 14, 2010, Michael “Butch” Bartholomew signed a contract with Fulmer’s firm to perform audits for the years 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 at $7,000 each for a total of $28,000. The contract was signed on the same date as the December City Council meeting, but council meeting minutes from December, 2010 through May 2011 show the contract was never presented to the council for approval. At the time the contract was signed, Bartholomew was the city’s business manager.
A copy of the City of West Fork’s 2011 budget, which was approved on Nov. 9, 2010, shows only $9,000 designated for audits. A timeline prepared by Kristie Drymon, City Treasurer, and circulated to city council members last week states Bartholomew signed the contract with then Mayor Jan Throgmorton’s approval and confirms in the next bullet point that the city council was unaware of the contract at the Jan. 11 council meeting when they decided to ask the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee for help in catching up the audits. There is no record of Throgmorton requesting a budget adjustment for the audits at the December meeting before leaving office.
City council meeting minutes for January show that the council authorized newly elected Mayor Hime to ask the State Legislative Audit Committee for help in making up the financial audits. The committee performs annual audits for over 500 municipalities in the state of Arkansas at no charge. Bartholomew was recovering from surgery and did not attend the January meeting.
Hime said she didn’t know the contract with Fulmer’s firm existed until mid-April and had been working to engage the Legislative Joint Auditing committee’s help to catch up the audits. She said she has since learned that Kennedy notified the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee in January that he had a contract to perform the audits.
Council Member Misty Caudle said she, too, wasn’t aware of a contract with Fulmer’s firm until May 13 when Treasurer Kristie Drymon called her to try to schedule a special meeting to discuss the city’s Water and Wastewater Utility finances.
“Obviously, no one on the council knew or they would have mentioned it in January,” she said.
Caudle said she finds it frustrating that those who knew about the contract weren’t more forthcoming.
An email and letter dated in March of this year show correspondence between Hime and Kennedy in which Hime asks Kennedy to perform two audits this year and would be working with the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee to complete the remaining three years. Hime said the city budget doesn’t have the funds budgeted in 2011 to have Fulmer perform four audits this year.
Kennedy said that he is currently only working on the 2006 and 2007 audits and should have them completed later this month. He said he was retained for the 2006 audit in an earlier contract which was signed by former Mayor Jeff Baker. Kennedy says that he would still be able to complete the 2008 and 2009 audits before the end of this year if that’s what the council elects to do and that he could complete audits for 2010 and 2011 next year.