Town recorder expects Oakland’s financial audits will be finished sometime this month

Citing four and a half months of audits of Oakland’s finances, Town Recorder Tammie Hightower said recently that she expects they will be completed later this month.
“Basically, we’ve been under an audit since June,” she noted. “Four to five weeks is what we’re looking at, and then we’ll be done until next year.”
Hightower made the comments during her monthly financial report at the Oct. 16 meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
She said that, during the three previous weeks, the auditor looked at nothing but purchases. He went through the “entire vendor file” with a “fine-tooth comb.”
Hightower noted that this is the first audit she has ever been a part of where purchases were examined this closely. So, that shows her that the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office said Oakland had two years that were “total chaos,” and the town needs to “get it together.”
She believes the auditor has been “instructed” to examine many things “much more thoroughly” than he normally would.
“In other words,” she said, “we’re supposed to be stepping up our game in a lot of areas.”
Because the auditor requested documents regarding property tax revenue collected from 2005-2013, Hightower said he would probably be examining them for the next two or three weeks.
“Property tax rolls came in today,” she noted. “So, you may start getting calls and receiving your 2014 property tax letters.”
Hightower said the notices for delinquent taxes from 2005-2013 are also ready to be mailed.
While citing a large number of invoices for payment, she “defended” some of them and asked for “a little mercy.”
She said the “two pages” from the Water and Sewer Department are the result of a “legitimate emergency” involving a pump station that affected an entire subdivision.
Although the department waited two weeks to submit an emergency request, Hightower said that is “supposedly going to improve.”
“But this is a legitimate emergency purchase,” she noted. “They didn’t have a choice. They had to do a lot of work in a few days very quickly just to maintain safety and health in the subdivision.”
Before preparing a purchase order, Hightower said, department directors must telephone a vendor to request a quote on an item and then complete a requisition form.
“We have a couple of companies that just ship it to you,” she said, “even though you haven’t ordered it yet. All you’re doing is pricing.”
Alderman Karl Chambless said such things as toner and paper for the photocopiers and printers might even get sent “out of the blue.” And the company just assumes that the town will pay for it.
Citing the posters regarding federal and state laws on employment that are required to be displayed in government buildings, Hightower said there are “multiple companies” that will send “everything.”
“Then, they send you a bill,” she noted. “You send it back and say you never ordered it. You don’t even know who they are, and it’ll take two or three months to get it cleared up.”
But Town Attorney Richard Myers said that, in such a situation, Hightower can put the “burden” on the company to take the item back.
“Write a letter stating, ‘We received this, and we didn’t order it,’” he said. “‘You’ve got two days to come and get it, or we’re going to assume it’s free and just take it.’”
Because not many things can be bought for less than $100, Hightower said a “widespread concern” among the town’s department directors is that they must prepare a purchase order every time they need an item.
She said the auditor believes it would be OK to increase that limit to $250 for vehicle repairs or “public safety-type things.” Those would not include items that are “easily anticipated” or bought “in bulk.”
“It would probably help out with some of these little ones that you see coming up,” she noted. “It would help me out a lot on paperwork as well.”
In response to a question by Alderman Kelly Rector, Hightower said she will prepare an ordinance on that for the board’s Nov. 20 meeting.
Regarding the audits, she said the town has most of the bank statements for the past three years “balanced and reconciled,” except for the General, Water and Sewer and Solid Waste funds.
She noted that, for years, the town had online payments and bank drafts. When that money came in, it “automatically” went to the Water and Sewer Fund.
Now, she has to determine what belongs in which fund.
“It was hit and miss the last three years whether that was completed or not,” she acknowledged. “So, it’s an absolute nightmare, because there are no records.”
Hightower noted that the town will probably have to just “balance the check.” She said it will be one large “adjusting entry” that the auditing firm will have to do.