Town continues auditor search for 2017-18

Published 7:36 pm Wednesday, July 12, 2017

BELHAVEN — The Town of Belhaven is moving forward in the process of securing a new auditor for this fiscal year.

Belhaven’s Board of Aldermen elected to stay with auditing firm Preston, Douglas & Associates through the 2016-17 fiscal year, at the advice of Finance Director Kelly Brady. The fiscal year ended June 30.

Town Manager Woody Jarvis is now tasked with securing a new independent auditor — a process he said will start later this year.

“Customarily we’ll start looking for someone in September and October,” Jarvis said. “We’ve got to communicate with an auditing firm that’s approved by the (Local Government Commission).”

The Town contracts with an auditing firm on an annual basis, and it usually changes firms every few years.

Jarvis said the latest audit cost the Town $15,000, plus an extra $2,500 because of a state mandate.

Mayor Adam O’Neal requested that Jarvis look into a new audit firm at a May board meeting. He said he was displeased with the current firm’s performance, accusing Preston, Douglas & Associates of not alerting town officials about the extent of unpaid utility bills.

The Office of the State Auditor, however, looked into the matter and found evidence that O’Neal and other officials were aware of the situation. In the state auditor’s investigation of fiscal year 2014-15, delinquent utility bills totaling more than $430,000 were uncovered.

O’Neal said he still disagrees with the board’s decision to allow Preston, Douglas & Associates to assess the books for FY 2016-17, and blames Jarvis for misleading the board.

“(The LGC) told of the negatives of waiting so late to secure an auditor, but in no way endorsed the negligent auditor of the past. I had (an) email to share with the council concerning the matter,” O’Neal wrote in an email Tuesday.

O’Neal planned to discuss the matter at Monday night’s regular meeting, but only one board member was present, so no business could be conducted.