By MARK EVANS
St. Mary aldermen voted to accept its 2020 financial audit from Buesing, Hey, Roe & Stroder, L.L.C. during last Thursday night’s regular meeting.
The vote came after some debate since neither Mayor Carlton Wyatt, nor three of the four aldermen had read any of the 38-page audit. Alderwoman Annette Hacker said she had “skimmed through it.”
Alderman Dr. Zen Duda objected to voting on it without reading it.
Wyatt said only the “findings,” at the end, really mattered, and that he knew what the findings would be.
“It’s like reading a book you’ve read 12 times,” he said, noting that the city is flagged for the same minor issues every year.
The findings were “inadequate segregation of duties,” and “incorrect utility bills.” One water and two sewer bills during the year were incorrect when sent out.
The “segregation of duties,” a criticism many small cities get, suggested that “The duties of receiving and handling cash and recording transactions should be separated for internal control purposes,” rather than the city collector doing everything.
Finances make it impossible for the city to increase the size of staff.
Wyatt asked Woods to summarize the findings.
“Basically, when you get these things, the numbers are the same every year,” Woods said. “The last two things, where it focuses on findings, the things they find wrong. The first one is the one they do every time. They want two collectors, two clerks looking after each other. And, our response is, ‘We can barely afford the one clerk we’ve got now, so there’s no way we can possibly afford that.” And they understand that. “
He added that the utility billing errors took place while the city was transferring from one billing system to another.
“That was just a software changeover mistake and we fixed that,” Woods said. “That’s really all that they found.”
Since “There was no wrong-doing, no malicious thing or anything out of order,” Wyatt asked if the board was ready to officially accept the audit.
“I’d like it postponed,” Duda said. “I’d like an opportunity to read it instead of just approving it.”
“It was in the packet here for two days,” Wyatt said. “It was on your desk for two days. That’s why we lay these packets out.”
He said that “nobody” picks up their packets, which Woods said is usually thready Tuesday mornings before the Thursday night meetings. Wyatt failed to see why the vote needed to be put off.
“I’ve been through maybe 50 of these audits and the main question hen you get audited is, ‘Was there any wrong-doing?’ No. So, the checks and balances are what they are. It’s always you need more people and you cross over your duties, but you have to. I know exactly how it’s going to read. You’ve never read one of these yet. But, you want to take the one from last year and this one and read them, they’re basically the same. If you want to go back maybe four or five years, different administration and everything…”
“I think it’s a good idea to read something before you approve it,” Duda said. “
He said he could abstain on it, “if hit will make everybody happy,” but that he couldn’t vote to accept it without reading it.