THE LATEST: Belhaven audit results released

Published 10:04 am Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Office of the State Auditor released the results of the audit in Belhaven at 10 a.m. Thursday.

Although there were areas needing attention, there was no evidence of fraud.

Among the areas of concern were utility funds and implementation of a travel policy. According to the audit, nearly $430,000 was left uncollected from 629 delinquent utilities accounts, as former Town Manager Guinn Leverett failed to collect them.

The Town of Belhaven wrote a letter on Jan. 11, signed by current Town Manager Woody Jarvis, contending that Mayor Adam O’Neal and the Board of Aldermen were unaware of the outstanding balances, but the audit report later discovered they were aware of the situation.

Town officials gave three reasons as to why the account balances were not collected: “residents threatened with a cut-off would disrupt town business;” “some residents were financially depressed, and management tried to work with them and not disrupt utility service until the local economy rebounded;” and “some residents had health issues, and the Town should show compassion by providing those with large health care bills more time to pay utility bills.”

The State Auditor’s report reads: “If the Town Manager does not follow the cut-off policy, delinquent balances will continue to increase, and the Town’s utility fund may experience cash shortages and not be able to pay its obligations.”

The State Auditor’s Office also suggested the implementation of a travel policy, as the Town of Belhaven does not have one in place and there could be potential for abuse of funds. The Town spent almost $27,000 for travel in the 2014-2015 fiscal years, but Belhaven officials said there has never been a need for a policy.

In the same Jan. 11 letter, Jarvis stated that the town had implemented a travel policy as of that same date. If an employee’s travel is approved, guidelines have been set for reimbursement for meals during overnight travel and partial days before or after overnight travel. Employees cannot be reimbursed for lunches if not in overnight travel status, but may still be eligible for reimbursement of breakfast or dinner.

The audit report for the Town of Belhaven took about seven months to complete.

Chief Deputy State Auditor J. Wesley Ray Jr. signed a subpoena in June 2015 to gain “access to Town Manager’s computer as well as access to thumb drives, USB drives, CDs, DVDs and any other data storage devices used by the Town Manager.” All of the items had to be delivered before June 29.

“As far as I know, our financial house is in order,” Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal said in a previous interview. “I think it’s important to note that we have had audits and our audits have been satisfactory ever since I’ve been mayor.”

For more information on the audit, see the Friday edition of the Daily News.