State out of Greene County books

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 13, 2004

EUTAW – A court order is keeping the state’s chief examiner’s office from auditing the Greene County Commission.

Examiner Mike Scroggins said the state office charged by conducting annual financial audits of public bodies couldn’t audit the commission until the terms of the county’s bankruptcy had been finalized.

“The [backruptcy] court ordered that Greene County, under Article 6 of the court order, shall retain CPA firm to conduct all audits required by law,” Scroggins said.

Controversy among commissioners and County Administrator Mattie Atkins over the financial shape of the county has left Commission Chairman Chip Beeker seeing red.

“… I was unable to get financial information in preparation for the budget hearings that were necessary to adopt this year’s budget,” he said in a letter to the editor this week. “I had asked for that financial information for months, verbally and in writing, and when it wasn’t forthcoming, and when I realized our checks were bouncing, I visited our bank myself.”

What Beeker found at the bank, in addition to money missing from the payroll account due to a non county-related theft, was that the county had spent about $5,000 in non sufficient funds fees. Added to that, Beeker said that employee insurance premiums had not been paid as well as child support payments and retirement premiums.

“Every year we check the status of the court order,” Scroggins said. “There are still some outstanding items that have to be cleared before we can resume auditing the commission.”

The Examiner’s Office still performs minor compliance audits, and conducts full audits of other county agencies like the board of education.

State law, he said, requires a bi-annual audit of the county, but under the federal Single Audit Act, any jurisdiction that receives federal funds must be audited annually.

“That’s why we conducted the annual financial audits – to comply with the federal act,” he said.

Atkins contends bank accounts are being reconciled and that she checks their status on a daily basis through internet on-line banking.

“I keep up with [the accounts] on an almost daily basis now,” she told The Times recently.

Still ongoing is a state and federal investigation into the missing funds, but Beeker believes because the length of the investigation, there may be more to the picture than just a recent theft.

“Since our investigation started into our ‘missing money,’ we have learned that big money has been stolen from the taxpayers f this county, and it’s been happening for a very long time. I suspect it’s been going on for several years based on the time spent in the investigation by state, federal and local law enforcement officers conducting the investigation,” he said.