Saturday, Mar 8, 2014
2008 Sesser Audit Reveals Flawed Financial History
SESSER -- A Franklin County community is trying to clean up its finances. The city of Sesser just completed an audit of its 2008 spending and leaders say the results are not good.
It's not clear why these audits weren't done on time. The state requires local governments to perform them annually.
The city now faces more than $12,000 in late fees. That's on top of the more than two dozen issues the audit revealed.
Overall wasteful spending, alongside a lack of documentation and transfers without board approval are just a few of the issues highlighted in the 2008 Sesser audit city leaders are now looking over.
"It has surprised me very much," said alderman Jim Kelly.
According to the findings, the city transferred more than $213,000 to the Opera House Café, a city run-operation at the time, but minutes show only $6,000 in approved transfers.
"A lot of the things that were involved were things that board should have known," said Kelly.
Kelly has served on the board for seven years now. He says items like that were never approved, because the aldermen didn't know about them.
"We can't approve, the board can't approve anything that's not presented to them,' he said.
Item number six says David Cox was hired in 2011 to complete all the past due audits for $50,000, but only completed 2006 and 2007. Not to mention, Mr. Cox was not qualified to do government audits.
"It's my understanding the city couldn't afford the audit," said Kelly when asked why the last five audits were not done in a timely manner.
Newly elected mayor Jason Ashmore says he's fulfilling his campaign promise and making Sesser more transparent by publishing public records like the audits.
"First, it's public information," he insisted. "Second, the taxpayers deserve to know how their money's being spent."
Kelly and Ashmore say what's done is done and the city is focused on fixing the issues and moving forward.
"We're documenting everything, making sure everything is contracted, the board's aware of everything that's going on," explained Ashmore.
"The city only has so much money, as all government's do, to operate with and you need to take care of what you got," added Kelly.
There are three other Sesser aldermen who've been on the board since at least 2008. We reached out to all of them. We also contacted former mayor Ned Mitchell, who said he did what he thought was best and declined to comment further.
Mayor Ashmore expects the next four audits to be finished by next summer, with the 2009 audit being complete as early as the end of this year. The audits costs $10,000 each.
You can find a link to the audits on the city's website www.sesser.org.
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