I was somewhat surprised last Thursday that what was billed on the City Council workshop agenda as an update on the progress of the very late 2015 FY audit turned into a full blown audit report presentation before five City Council members with Councilpersons Boudin and McDonald not attending. To get a flavor of why members of the City Council began questioning the thoroughness of the latest City auditor, we need to refer to Geoff Belcher’s story on the report presentation for the Seacoast Echo which ran this past Saturday, Bay council questions new audit report. Belcher did a good job recapping the meeting and only left one thing out that was of interest to me but for now we need to circle that for later exploration:
“You’re – in essence – healthy,” Bobby Culumber, of Gulfport-based CPA firm Culumber, Harvey & Associates, told council members at a workshop meeting on Thursday. “You aren’t over-leveraged, you’re under-leveraged.
“The city has expanded in size from 2005 and you’re working with 10 percent less staff (than you had then) for a much larger-sized city, so you’re doing okay.”
I happened to be at the City Council meeting not long ago when the Mayor first dropped the “10% less staff” talking point and it is true. However, as Councilman Farve pointed out when Mayor Fillingame first used the phrase that the 10% less has largely been taken out of public safety. This in turn explains why the City has periodically closed the Highway 603 Fire Station including in December 2014, which was in Culumber Harvey and Associates audit year. It is also symptomatic of the larger financial and management problems that the new auditors evidently missed but it gets deeper folks as I circle back to Belcher’s story:
Culumber said that the administration’s internal controls “were definitely improving,” and that several negative findings from earlier audit reports had been cleared up.
Both Councilman-at-Large Mike Farve and Ward 6 Councilman Lonnie Falgout were puzzled by Culumber’s comments