Auditor: Aberdeen owed nearly $1 million in fees, $380,000 misplaced

May 5, 2010 10:49:00 AM

Jason Browne - jbrowne@cdispatch.com

 

Aberdeen has misplaced $380,000 and missed out on nearly $1 million, according to an independent auditor. 

 

Charles Buchanan, CPA, spoke to the Aberdeen Board of Aldermen at its Tuesday meeting to give a preliminary report on his findings. Buchanan began auditing the city''s electric, water and general city records in April. 

 

Thus far, Buchanan has concluded $380,000 in utility payments which should have been paid into the Water & Light Department fund instead went to the city''s general fund. Also, he estimates the city''s unpaid municipal court fees at $950,000. 

 

Buchanan declined comment Wednesday morning. Mayor Jim Ballard says he''s not sure how Buchanan came to his conclusions. 

 

"He didn''t get into the mechanics. And rather than me trying to speculate, I can''t say because I don''t know either." said Ballard. "We just have to assume what he shares is right." 

 

Buchanan reported record-keeping within the three departments he''s been assigned to audit has been poorly handled, especially at the electric department -- so bad, in fact, that he needed more time to unravel the mess. The board passed an amendment to Buchanan''s contract, awarding him an additional $13,000 on top of the original $30,000 it approved in February. 

 

Ballard says the city won''t make any decisions regarding the money erroneously paid into the general fund or record-keeping systems until Buchanan issues his final report. 

 

"We''ll sit down and take a look at it and see what the real issues are," he said. "We''ll look at the budgets and a number of things to try to right the ship." 

 

Ward 3 Alderman David Ewing, whom the board voted in for a one-year term as vice mayor Tuesday, said the auditor''s report was "no surprise." He said a combination of poor management and antiquated record-keeping has landed the city in trouble. 

 

"It really dug a deep hole for us. We''ve just got to pay our way out of it," he said. "Right now I couldn''t really say how we''ll do it." 

 

The city has already begun attempting to address outstanding municipal fines by forcing debtors into a work program, whereby they''ll work off their fines. The work program is an attempt to avoid jailing debtors at cost to the city.