I still remember how naive the Attorney for the Department of Revenue was when discussing the Local Option Fuel Taxes. He believed that no Town could possibly be misusing those funds because the Government depends on CPA’s and the CPA’s wouldn’t allow such misspending. Thus after discussion with the Florida Department of Revenue, it was deemed only White Springs was in violation….but the Citizens needed to take suit because the State itself could not go after the Town…but they could go after a CPA.
Now we have received two proposals from two Certified Public Accountants, one being from Powell and Jones who was our accounting firm for some 25 years. This however is the problem In the 1996-1997 fiscal year regarding an audit completed by Powell & Jones, Specifically Richard C. Powell, which according to the law was sent to the State of Florida. In the State’s review, after going through the audit, the Town of White Springs was told there was a major problem and if White Springs did not respond to the State of Florida within ten (10) days, the State would be taking over the Town of White Springs.
At this point, Jim Smith, Joe McKire and Bob Dezendorf took over Town Hall. In in their review they found where an employee was funneling money in their own account when the Town was paid in cash for sewer and water. The clients paying their bills in cash were given a hand written receipt which was out of a receipt book the Employee purchased from a store like Wal-mart in lieu of the Town’s receipt. The Town of White Springs was broke. At that point after the three gentlemen found what had been transpiring, they wrote to the State and asked for six months in which to take care of the problems, which the State Granted. The problem is that even though Richard Powell placed together the audit, he made no comments to the Town regarding what was happening nor did he realize that the audit he placed together would have the type of implications it did which would have shut White Springs down.
So because of this prior dilemma where Mr. Powell did very little to help White Springs, and when he did not do anything about the various errors of Pam Tomlinson nor bring the matters up, we secured a new accountant, Ken Daniels as our CPA, a definite choice of then Mayor Bullard. The problem we have, however, is that our new CPA was no better than our old CPA. No advice was given and the Town lacks in internal controls and ethics, spending money however they feel, to the detriment of the citizens who have to pay more for services they are not really receiving.
So since Pam Tomlinson apparently was hiding the mere $25,000 in fuel tax revenue we received in the General Fund, no one knew. After all it was only fuel revenues from the local stations here in Town so who would question or know who would not actually see the actual books. By the time Ken Daniels came onboard, we had two Truck Stops and amounts over $200,000 were filtering into White Springs and being used for salaries, equipment we didn’t need and even special water because after all, we could not buy the cheap stuff or drink the local water because we knew it was not being handled well.
We made a plea to Ken Daniels but he brought in this entire “operations” excuse that the Town had an umbrella under which they could spend as they saw fit. He also said and Rhett Bullard and Spencer Lofton kept repeating,that the Attorney General’s opinions were merely “opinions”.
The Department of Transportation in Lake City had us scrambling to every agency in the Government because they knew White Springs was using the money for everything but street and roads. Yet, Ken Daniels is the accountant for Jasper and Jasper handles their funds correctly as well so what was the answer? Did the accountants who worked for White Springs decide to ruin the Town? Well we found that it doesn’t matter if the official is a Republican or Democrat because neither a State Senator nor our State Congressman would assist in the matter because this is a Good Ole Boy County.
So because of what Richard Powell did not do for the Town of White Springs in the past, Joe elected to contact four Cities; Lake Butler, Trenton, Waldo and Branford and ask each what was being done with their Local Option Fuel Tax. The latter three are in compliance with the Law, keeping separate funds within the General Fund solely for roads, streets, maintenance and the like….and if the money is not spent in the current year, it is brought forward to the next year for roads, streets, maintenance and the like. And after Lake Butler asked “Should we be keeping a separate fund?”, Joe told the gentleman that he should talk to his CPA.
Apparently Mr. Powell cannot be accredited for giving the right information to his clients. The credit apparently may go only to the Town Managers and accounting staff for Trenton, Waldo and Branford…..because Lake Butler has no clue and obviously since it was the job of Richard Powell, he did not perform as the State of Florida requires in spite of him being licensed by the State of Florida. Then as you will note, the peer review for his firm did not show internal controls.
I do not believe we again should hire Powell and Jones, especially when it is obviously he or his firm will just handle an audit in some manner which will not assist the Town and he will not, apparently, apprise the municipalities if there is a problem or if they may possibly be breaking the law. Since these CPA’s also bring forth ethics in their proposals, obviously Richard Powell’s firm may be lacking as well, because ethics means if there is something wrong, bring it up to upper management or the Council. If Mr. Powell could not advise the Town that someone was stealing money previously and could not advise the Town of how Pam Tomlinson doesn’t have the education so that she is misappropriating money against the laws of the State of Florida, then I say, Please do not hire this man.
Karin for the blog