Commissioners Meeting: Auditing the Auditors

Published 7:09 pm Monday, February 19, 2024

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The Sumter County Board of Commissioners met on February the 13th. EMA director Nigel Poole addressed the Board, stating he had found other employment. Poole mentioned it had been an honor to serve the citizens of Sumter County and expressed his thanks to the Board.

“I leave with no ill will, no malicious intent, I’m here to answer any questions. I’m happy to help in a volunteer aspect, I’m just getting paid somewhere else.”

Chief tax assessor Chris Williams addressed the Board of Accessors, asking that they use GEMAS to do a county wide reevaluation of properties.

“We hadn’t had one since 2016. This would be over a three-year process. We are requesting that they do the full walk around option which is $647,000 over that three-year period, starting this year, and final implementation would be in 2026.”

If the County is not within a sales ratio of 38-42% of fair market value with their appraisals, they will be unable to collect utilities at the full rate after a period of three years as a penalty. Doug Eaves mentioned that with an inflationary increase, there would be a roll-back requirement.

“The only way that this would pay for itself is by not losing the utility portions.”

The issue was tabled until next week to allow for review.

Chief Harmon addressed the board about a bird flu outbreak in a duck farm.

“I was contacted by the department of Ag right in the middle of Mrs. Carter’s funeral.”

He mentioned that for the first time in the State of Georgia, bird flu was found.

“We did assist the department of Ag with this. We provided them with probably 15,000 to 20,000 gallons of water in the tanker trucks. They were estimating probably over half a million dollars worth of product that he lost.”

The water was used to create a hot wash, eliminating the birds. Harmon mentioned that the department of Ag had requested silence until they were able to get the situation under control.

Interim County Administrator Doug Eaves addressed the Board.

“All back accounts have been reconciled.”

However, Eaves mentioned several issues that had become apparent, including information that had not been presented to the Commissioners by the last auditor.

“Payroll transactions were not being reported. Money was being transferred from the general fund to payroll, to pay for the checks, but they were never being recorded as coming out of the general fund.”

Eaves mentioned that the accounts had been reconciled. He stated that they were initiating training programs to address process errors, which were the chief issue.

“We are initiating training programs for payroll.”

He mentioned that HR had been given payroll but was not properly equipped. He also mentioned a business review.

“We’ve asked for a business review. That is going to cost us $1,500. They are going to come in and go through our entire business processes.”

“Until we get a financial manager in place. . . I’m recommending that we continue to use this Bellview Firm to come in at the beginning of each month to look at entries to reconcile to make sure that we are current on the books so we don’t have these massive amount of journal entries.”

He expressed support for using the firm as an oversight for the auditors.

“I’m really concerned about the fact that the adjusted journal entries for 22 weren’t made in the system and the commissioners weren’t aware of it as far as I can tell.”

He mentioned issues with the books from 22 and 23. Commissioner Jim Reid questioned Eaves.

“Why didn’t the auditors catch this?”

Eaves responded.

“That’s the question that we are asking. They knew that the 22 entries weren’t made. They made them at the close of 22 on their books, but they didn’t make them in our books. They’re not supposed to make them in our books, we were, but they didn’t come to the commissioners and say, listen, your finance team didn’t make these entries that we gave them.”

Eaves concluded.

“They caught the problems, but they didn’t tell anyone.”

Afterward the Board adjourned for executive session. After reconvening, a motion was made for the two candidates recommended by the Democratic Party for the Board of Elections to meet for interviews at 5:15 prior to the next commissioner’s meeting. The motion passed unanimously.