Leader Blues

Saturday, March 15, 2008

TOP STORY > >Treasurer angry over 2006 audit

Leader staff writer

Armed with copies of past audits, Cabot Clerk-Treasurer Marva Verkler went before a committee of city council members Tuesday night and tried to convince them that the 2006 audit that has been called the worst in the city’s history was not her fault.

Beside Verkler sat former Alder-man Odis Waymack, who had tried unsuccessfully in August 2004 to give her back the financial duties the council stripped from her more than a year earlier. Waymack voted to give Verkler’s duties to a finance director but later became her ally in what amounted to a cold war between her office and the office of former Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh.

Waymack attended the meeting to talk to the committee about how Verkler had been shut out of financial matters and was therefore not to blame for the bad report.

But with only two committee members present for the meeting, the battle that Verkler had prepared for did not materialize. Eddie Cook, committee chairman, even appeared sympathetic about her problems, especially the friction between her office and the mayor’s, which included the finance director.

“I screamed. I hollered. I did everything I knew to do and no one would listen. People were banned from talking to me,” Verkler said of the time when she did not oversee city finances.

“You’ve got the best excuse I know for everything that has happened in the past years,” Cook said.

The budget committee learned last month that the city books for 2006 were so out of balance that the state auditor was unable to verify them.

Verkler, who got her duties back when Eddie Joe Williams became mayor in January 2007, accepts no responsibility for any bad marks against the city books while she was not in charge. She also told Cook and Alderman Becky Lemaster that the 2007 audit would likely not be as good as previous years when she was in control because she is only now solving problems.

Walker, who was laid off about six months after Williams took office, is suing Williams for job discrimination. Walker filed in federal court Feb. 15. His motion to appoint counsel was denied the next week, so he will represent himself before Judge William R. Wilson, Jr.

Williams received his notification of the lawsuit by certified mail Friday.

There is no allegation that money is missing, only that the books are incomprehensible.

These are some of the findings of the 2006 audit: “The city converted to a new accounting system in July 2006. The beginning general fund account balances reported in the new accounting system were different from the ending balances reported in the previous accounting system, and these differences in the financial records were not reconciled.

“Also, the General Fund financial records omitted cash and investments in the amounts of $82,112 and $205,863, respectively, receipts and disbursements in the amounts of $301,699 and $278,064, respectively, due to the failure of the city to record investment and loan activity.

“The other funds in the aggregate financial records contained misstatements for cash and investments in the amounts of $19,528 and $30,379, respectively, primarily due to the lack of record-keeping for investments.

The other funds in the aggregate financial records also contained misstatements for receipts and disbursements in the amounts of $220,807 and $2,164,236, respectively, due to the city not recording receipt and disbursement activity in the debt service construction funds.”

“There should have been somebody going behind somebody checking something,” Verkler told Cook and Lemaster Tuesday evening.