IN SIMPLE TERMS
(The comments expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of the Journal.)
By BOBBIE McAULIFFE
In late April and early May of this year a financial audit of the Le Flore County courthouse revealed disturbing practices, unpaid vendor invoices, unaccounted for consumables and missing equipment that leaves the county financial health in deep trouble.
These audits are open records and can be viewed on the State Auditor and Inspector’s website.
Some vendors have filed lawsuits against the county to recover money owed to them.
A financial audit merely determines the fiscal health of the county. These auditors are not attorneys and are not law enforcement officials. All they can do is make recommendations if improvements are needed. Financial audits are supposed to happen every year, but sometimes a year is skipped, then a two-year audit is done in the second year.
An investigative audit goes deeper and can include OSBI and FBI to see if fraud has been committed and who is responsible.
About 25 citizens attended the Le Flore County commissioners’ meeting on Monday, Oct. 24 to support Dewey Harrison and the Le Flore County TEA Party in putting the county commissioners on record with a vote to request (or not) an investigative audit of the Le Flore County courthouse.
Harrison had asked for five minutes to present our request and the reasons we felt it was necessary. In the middle of his third sentence commissioner Lance Smith began interrupting him and contradicting him. I really do not know how long it was from the time Harrison started speaking until Lance said “Dewey your 5 minutes are up, you can sit down” and moved to adjourn the meeting, but I do not believe Harrison got his whole five minutes.
Those attending the meeting objected to the adjournment and several stood respectfully in support of an investigative audit because this is not the first time the property owners have had to pick up the tab for negligence in the LeFlore County courthouse.
A decision has already been made to increase property taxes to make up this money discovered missing in the spring. You might be reminded that we just finished paying for the “mistake” made by the county commissioners in keeping and spending the FEMA overpayment from the 2000 ice storm.
EOEC has filed a lawsuit against the county over hiring practices that is likely going to cost the taxpayers a lot more money when it comes to court.
The commissioners refused to even go on record that they would be in favor of an investigative audit, saying the county could not afford it so there was no reason to even have such a vote, and leaving most of us feeling they really do not want the special audit to happen.
One audience member urged the audit if for no other reason than to clear the air and prove they were not hiding or covering up anything. Another reminded the board that they do work for us.
Another audience member asked if they would order the audit if the Tea Party raised the money for it, but did not get an answer. Another member asked the question again and Smith reluctantly mumbled a reply that sounded like they would request the audit if the Tea Party raised the money for it. I am not sure that is what he said, and there was no vote. It was just conversation.
In the end, the Tea Party did not get the commissioners on record as saying if or if not they would support an audit, and the citizens got to have their say in front of the board.
It ain’t over yet.