Clerk’s Office – Good News

beach-16698__180From  Clerk’s office audit shows progress.

I’m sure that taking over the Clerk’s office has turned out to be a turn-around job for Amy Heavilin.  Let’s face facts.  As a county commissioner, Danny Kolhage has proven himself to be extremely fiscally irresponsible .  I would imagine that with shaky standards like this, he left the Clerk’s office a shambles.  

The newspaper story says this:

Those audit findings were the first time in nearly 30 years that the clerk’s office had been cited for this many “material weaknesses,” according to officials.

I’ve got some questions.  Which “officials” are these  exactly?  What other “material weaknesses” have there been?  How many times before has the Auditor General taken this close a look at the Monroe County Clerk’s office?  My understanding is that entities receiving Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill money automatically come under the microscope.  When was the first time the Auditor General has taken a detailed look at the Clerk’s books?  If it was in 2012, then is that 30 year run really anything to brag about?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Clerk’s office came under fire during Danny Kolhage’s tenure for late juror payments.  This was an ongoing problem that continued for three years.   Would that be considered a “material weakness”?

When Heavilin took over there was a mass exodus of staff.  While that may be causing some short-term difficulties, I think the office will be better, stronger and more professional than it has ever been going forward.

The auditors made note of the staffing improvements.

“During our audit we noted that the majority of the finance staff has been in place for the past fiscal year and that the majority of vacant positions from the prior year were filled,” the auditors wrote. “While this resulted in an improvement in the timeliness and accuracy of the accounting records, numerous entries were required to correct the books and records at year-end.”

Heavilin had this to say about the late entries.

Some of the delays in postings and payments were because procurement card invoices were not submitted by Monroe County government staff in a timely manner, according to Heavilin’s office.

In October 2015, the Clerk’s Internal Audit Department conducted a follow-up and identified that the procurement card invoices continue to not be paid in a timely fashion due to late submission by county staff.

The Blue Paper covered the purchasing card issue a couple of years ago.  At that time, “county staff” was identified as County Administrator, Roman Gastesi.  If Gastesi is refusing to cooperate on an ongoing basis, the county commissioners need to step in.  It’s very unlikely that they will do that though.  Commissioners Carruthers, Neugent and Rice were also guilty of misusing their purchasing cards.  Carruthers, in fact, wrote a huffy-puffy, excuse-ridden response to the Blue Paper’s article – much of which the Blue Paper handily debunked.

Look, it’s easy enough to make a mistake using a purchasing card.  The rules can be pretty detailed and involved – especially the rules regarding travel.  I hated using my purchasing card for that very reason.  But if the same mistakes are being made over and over again then they’re not mistakes.  Now it sounds like certain “county staff” are slow about handing in their receipts.  Gee, I wonder who.

Let’s not forget that the auditor gigged the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) – NOT THE CLERK – two years ago for delayed submission of purchasing card receipts.  Looks to me like the purchasing card issue is upstream of the Clerk’s office.

As far as I know, there is no law that says a government official has to have a purchasing card.  Perhaps the solution is to require repeat offenders to turn in an expense report instead.  This would ensure that the taxpayers are only paying for legitimate purchases which are supported with the proper documentation.

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