Concerned community members speak before the Board about independent audit
Published 7:00 am Saturday, September 17, 2016
By Julia Arenstam
On Monday, Tavish Kelly, co-owner of Kelly’s Firearms in Picayune, voiced concerns to the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors about an independent audit of the previous Chancery Clerk’s files.
Kelly said the Board voted in March to conduct an independent audit of the files, but has since showed resistance in the form of an Attorney General opinion.
Kelly said Montgomery’s letter to the AG’s office, which requested an official opinion on the audit, was not specific to the situation.
Kelly provided an additional AG opinion, dated December 16, 1992, that authorized the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors to hire an independent CPA to assist in the audit of a public community hospital, as requested by the State Auditor.
“I appreciate that you brought this to us,” Board Attorney Joe Montgomery said. “But, I think you’re reading of that other opinion is incorrect.”
Montgomery said he was aware of that opinion and the AG’s office was aware of it, but doesn’t think it applies to this case.
“My position is that the Attorney General said ‘no,’” Montgomery said.
“You’re acting like it’s not going to be audited, but it is,” Board Vice President Hudson Holliday said. “You want us to spend money on something that the state’s going to do anyway.”
County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin said he has been working for the county for the past 20 years, and in that time the county has been audited every single year in conjunction with the state auditor’s office.
Lumpkin also said the Quickbooks files have been reconciled with the state AS400 system and the state is currently reviewing the 2014 audit which will be available in the coming months.
The July 1 AG opinion to the Board cites an opinion to W.H. Birdsong from March 26, 1934 in which the office opined that all auditing for the county be done by the state auditor and the chancery clerk.
“The Chancery Clerk is auditor of the county and the Board cannot employ any other auditor,” the 1934 opinion states. “The State Auditor and the Chancery Clerk must do all of the auditing work for the county; and that the Board is without authority to employ and pay public funds to any other auditor.”
The July 1 opinion concludes by stating the Board may not employ a CPA to perform a financial audit of the former Chancery Clerk’s records and the newly elected Chancery Clerk and the State Auditor have the right to investigate those records.
Richard Crawford is among a group of concerned citizens who brought the matter to the Board’s attention in January, he said.
Crawford wrote a letter to the Board dated Aug. 17 asking if a state audit had been completed, what the status was of the independent audit and the status of an AG investigation referred to in a WLOX report from March 24.
Montgomery responded to the letter, stating the 2014 audit was complete and being reviewed, the 2015 audit should begin soon and that the independent audit was not authorized by state law.
In regards to the AG investigation, Montgomery’s response said, “The Board has no information on the status of this request.”
“This will just disappear into the hole that every other corruption issue disappears into if you don’t do anything about it,” Kelly said. “This county will continue to look worse and worse in the eyes of the public, until we can no longer trust the Board at all.”
The Board took no action on the matter.
Board President Sandy Kane Smith said that despite his personal beliefs, it was time for the Board to move on from the issue.