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John Thompson

Elizabethton Bureau Chief
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Eight findings, recommendations listed in Carter Co. audit

November 22nd, 2011 5:52 pm by John Thompson

ELIZABETHTON — The annual audit of the Carter County government has been released by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office. It lists eight findings and recommendations. Two of the findings are recurring deficiencies that have been studied by the newly created County Audit Committee.
The uncorrected findings from previous years were found in the trustee’s office and in the office of Circuit and General Sessions Courts clerk. The trustee was using an unauthorized method of paying county warrants. The finding in the office was that execution docket trial balances did not reconcile with general ledger accounts.
The audit report concluded the finding on the trustee’s office by saying “this deficiency was corrected subsequent to June 30, 2011, when the trustee implemented a checking system for disbursing funds.”
On the recurring finding in the office of the clerk, the audit report said the balances were off by $61,954 in the Circuit Court and $22,879 in the Sessions Court. The auditor said this made it impossible to determine if the office was complying with the statute to turn in unclaimed property to the state treasurer’s office within one year.
The county responded by saying the Johnson City accounting firm of Blackburn, Childers and Steagall was hired to help balance the books. Due to the numerous man hours that would be involved, the reconciliation was not made. During the past several months the office’s bank reconciliations have remained consistently balanced. “It is our priority to ensure that they continue to be consistent in the future,” the county said in its response.
The audit findings were discussed during Monday’s meeting of the Carter County Commission by David Wortman, chairman of the Audit Committee.
Wortman discussed each of the recurring problems at length and brought up Trustee Randal Lewis and Circuit and Sessions Court Clerk John Paul Mathes to discuss the steps they have taken.
He said correcting the finding in the Circuit and Sessions Court clerk’s office is difficult.
One part of the solution was installing new software. The new bookkeeper for the office, Josh Stanley, said the software “is doing a lot to bring it up to date.” He said the new software identified several mistakes that have been addressed.
Stanley said the office is also writing a standard operating procedure to help maintain consistency in the future. Wortman said the SOPs will be written for each office.
“The deficiencies were not horrible, glaring issues, but they were ongoing,” Wortman said to the commissioners.
The other findings included a previously made allegation that Planning Director Chris Schuettler had received compensatory time contrary to county policy and had not provided military orders when taking military leave.
The auditor found that Schuettler had been approved for overtime compensation by a former mayor and received $5,903 between 2007-2010. The auditor reported that Carter County policy does not allow overtime to executive employees, professional employees and certain employees in executive positions. The auditor also reported that Schuettler was facing a charge of theft on some specific compensatory time claims when he was allegedly not working.
In the auditors’ look at military leave, it was found that several employees had taken military leave without supplying copies of military orders. All paid military leave in question was later verified by each employee presenting copies of the orders.
In the school system, the auditor found that some expenditures were not properly reported for some federal grants, including American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants.
The school system acknowledged the expenditures had not been reported on time. It said the problem was with new personnel who were not familiar with the requirements. A training session was scheduled.
The auditor had two other findings in the Circuit Court Clerk’s office. These were a finding that abstract bills of costs were not filed with the state on time and court software did not have adequate application controls.
The county responded by saying the lateness was caused by the death of the employee responsible for filing the report. The office has since implemented new procedures to ensure state billing is accurate and current.
The second problem was addressed when the office switched to new software.
The auditor also found a deficiency in the sale of surplus vehicles in the sheriff’s department.
Chief Deputy Ron Street addressed the finding in the commission meeting. He said old cars taken off the road are cannibalized for spare parts. When everything usable was taken off, the cars were taken to a recycler by a Custom Muffler and Brake employee, who received an $800.40 payment. The money was remitted to the county 28 days later.
The auditor said all county surplus material should be sold by the county finance department.

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