Sesser Audits Reveal Startling Findings

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By Sam Jones
By Benjy Jeffords

FRANKLIN COUNTY -- Sesser leaders say they're making progress in turning around the city's finances. More audits are finished, but the results show just how bad things have been in recent years.

“We're not even close to being done, we have lots of work to do,” Mayor Jason Ashmore explained.

Ashmore’s made it his mission to catch up on the books; progress shown in the boxes of completed audits in his office.

Transparency's been a top priority, along with balancing the budget. Slowly but surely, he’s making progress. Mayor Ashmore’s already found ways to pay down $200,000 in debts.

“I do realize we have a long way to go, but I feel really good,” he added.

The audit findings are startling. In 2008, special revenue funds weren't used for their intended purpose and invoices were paid without approval.

The next year, the city reimbursed the mayor for political activities with city funds, and a check for nearly $20,000 was written to cash, with no reason given for the transaction

“Lack of documentation to show where it went,” said Ashmore.

In 2010, the audit shows the same finding for the mayor in regards to political activities. Additionally, there was no backup given for a miner's memorial grant totaling $50,000.

“Am I getting any good news from them? No, what I’m getting is what I’m considering good news. I’m finding out what we need to do to straighten things up; helps me find the problems and fix them,” he clarified.

Mayor Ashmore couldn’t elaborate on why the previous police chief who was on paid administrative leave, due to a legal agreement between the city and Rob Barrett. However, Barrett is no longer receiving money from the city.

“We came to an agreement where he would just resign and um we’re going on our own way,” Ashmore explained.

Ryan White took over as the new full-time chief Monday. The former Christopher detective has come full circle, since starting as a Sesser officer 10 years ago.

“I’ll stay here as long as they'll have me,” enthused White.

Mayor Ashmore expects the audits to be complete by the end of summer. He'll then hold a town meeting to present all of the findings to the community.

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