Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Peeking under the rug

Once more into the breach

Near the conclusion of an otherwise sleepy early summer meeting of the Goochland Board of Supervisors on July 5, District 3 Supervisor Ned Creasey reintroduced an issue that the majority of his fellows thought had been swept under the rug last year.

Following the release late last month of a report on the turnover of the Treasurer’s office by the Auditor of Public Accounts, Creasey asked that County Attorney Norman Sales investigate what sort of legal recourse Goochland County might have against its former auditor Robinson, Farmer, Cox Associates.

Sales, who last summer verbally opinioned that the county had insufficient grounds to go after the former auditors, said that in reviewing the responses to questions Creasey asked KPMG, the latest report shed new light on the matter. (An excerpt from the supervisors’ June 1, 2010 minutes was sent to those on the GOMM email list. If you would like a copy, please email Sales also allegedly said that the cost of litigation could exceed damages incurred by the county.

The lack of outrage expressed by supervisors Jim Eads, District 5; William Quarles Jr., District 2 and Andrew Pryor District 1, following last year’s report on the 2009 certified annual financial report (CAFR), which included many restatements, was curious. They seemed anxious to put the matter to rest, dismissing it as failure to use best practices, and move on.

All of those errors and incompetence cost Goochland County a lot of money even before reports of the former treasurer’s activities surfaced.

The former auditors handled Goochland County finances for a long time. They closed county books— because there was no one on staff with the skills to perform that task— then audited their own work, a big no-no in accounting. Failure to seek some sort of recompense for RFC’s actions were a little like taking your car in for regular oil changes, having your engine blow up because the oil was never changed and then going out and buying a new car without ever complaining to the garage that neglected to properly service the car. It’s one thing to do that with your own money, but RFC’s actions wasted public money, whose stewardship is the most important duty of a supervisor.

Eads dismissed the notion of legal action against RFC contending that it would be an expensive undertaking to retain lawyers and accountants to even investigate the matter, which he characterized as a “complex matter.” He also indicated that it might be difficult to find an accounting firm willing to essentially tattle on colleagues.

Pryor asked how much the effort would cost and if citizens would support spending money on legal fees.

“The public will tell us how to proceed. We need to put this to bed,” Creasey said. “People want to know.”

Sales said that he had reread the questions posed by Creasey to KPMG 2010 and the answers. Creasey, said Sales, posed questions about the materiality of the reports and did not receive “strong, concrete black and white answers to those questions from KPMG.”

Rudy Butler, District 4, concurred with Creasey and said that he is constantly being asked by his constituents about the possibility of taking legal action against RFC.

Are folks who live in Districts 1,2 and 5 satisfied with the county response to repeated revelations of, at best, massive dysfunction and mismanagement of public money? Or are they being convinced by their supervisors that all is well? Or, do Pryor and Quarles not bother to talk with their constituents?

Quarles asked Sales to make inquiries and bring back an estimate of the cost and scope of possible legal action at the August 2 meeting.
He also deflected an inquiry about progress on the revised Tuckahoe Creek service District ordinance by tasking county administrator Rebecca Dickson with “investigating” the matter and reporting in August.

Boys and girls this is why Quarles’ election to chairman of the board of supervisors was so important. He controls the agenda and has the power to defer, postpone or ignore discussion of matters that could impede his reelection and continuing control of the county. Pay close attention and be sure to ask questions when these folks, or their chosen successors, come asking for your vote.

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