EVENTS & DISCUSSIONS
OFFICIAL REPORTS IN ACCORDANCE WITH GOVERNMENT
Questions Raised at the Council Meeting by Chris Djonis (In regards to Accounting Errors, Broken State Laws & alleged Fraud)
Ladies and Gentlemen of the council,
As a taxpayer and a concern citizen of Austell, who’s running for the mayor’s position, I have some questions and concerns regarding how the city was managed in the last few years.
1 . In accordance with government auditing standards, in his last 3 audits, James Whitaker, a certified auditor and public accountant hired by the city of Austell and paid by our tax dollars, pointed out several significant deficiencies in the city’s accounting, and he specifically mentioned of ERRORS, broken State Laws, and even FRAUD.
What errors and fraud is he referring to, and how this situation was allowed to go on for at least 2 consecutive years, if not longer? Who’s accountable for what happened in the past few years? Who’s safeguarding the city from errors, broken laws, and fraud RIGHT NOW?
2 . The auditor concluded that the City’s Community Council Fund incurred expenses that materially exceeded its respective appropriations. He also pointed out that according to the State of Georgia-Department of Audits, exceeding a department’s expenses over its appropriations is a violation of State Law.
Has the city’s Finance Director ever bothered to explain why a State Law was broken repeatedly? Was anyone reprimanded over this? Did the council know? If so, why have they allowed for a State Law to be broken repeatedly?
3 . According to the auditor, the city sanitation fund had a negative balance at year-end of approximately $17000, $53000, $63000, and $93000 dollars for the years 2015-2018 respectively. The auditor concluded that the sanitation contractor charged the city for more people than the city had as customers.
If so, that means either the sanitation contractor charged for more customers than the city has, or the city year after year failed to invoice everyone. So, which one is it? And, has this problem been corrected or are we to expect a negative balance again for 2019?
4 . According to the auditor, in 2016, $750,000 was MISSING from the SPLOST funds account and an adjustment to the books had to be made. For those not aware, SPLOST Funds are supposed to be paying for items approved ONLY by the VOTERS under the appropriate SPLOST referendum.
So, what happened to the missing funds? Are SPLOST transactions monitored today by an experienced accountant, as the auditor recommended, to ensure that the funds are appropriately used under the related SPLOST referendum? If so, who’s the designated person and are they properly trained or qualified for that?
5 . According to the audit, in 2016 the city “accidentally” overpaid the water supplier by $180,000, leaving the city’s operating account in the NEGATIVE by $117,000 dollars which resulted in several city checks to BOUNCE afterwards with negative balance bank fees.
How did this happen? Who’s the person responsible for checking the City’s bank balance on a regular basis before approving and releasing such large payments? Has the city reprimanded or replaced anyone in the accounting department after that incident? Has the city collected the money back?
6 . According to the auditor’s reports, year after year, the city’s management has agreed with the auditor’s findings and furthermore agreed to prepare annual balanced budgets for all governmental funds and agreed to monitor these budgets on a monthly basis.
Since that was the auditor’s recommendation year after year, why did the city do nothing to follow the auditor’s recommendations? Why so many issues labeled as errors and fraud found in the financial reports from 2015 through 2018? Who was ultimately responsible for creating and managing these budgets in the last few years, and what was the role of the seating mayor during this period? Why did these conditions persisted year after year? Was this due to one’s inability to manage the city properly, or was there something else going on, something perhaps more reprehensible? How could the city year after year failed to meet state requirements and ultimately broke a state law? Have we done anything in 2019 to meet these State requirements and to prevent more ERRORS and FRAUD, or is the upcoming audit for 2019 will be more of the same? What is the city attorney’s position on all of the above?
I MUST SAY THAT AFTER LOOKING INTO ALL AVAILABLE PUBLIC RECORDS, It SEEMS TO ME THAT THERE HAS BEEN NO CAPTAIN ON THIS SHIP FOR SOME TIME NOW!!!
Does anyone care to respond to any of these questions at this time?
With this said, I yield my time back to you.