After reading the lead story in the Nov. 24 issue of the Henry County Local, regarding the Henry County Fiscal Court meeting, I am reminded of that old idiom about putting your own house in order before you start giving out advice.
Judge Executive John Logan Brent, and Magistrate Nick Hawkins pushed a motion to require Henry County fire departments to submit annual budgets and submit to annual audits or risk losing their county collected funds.
Now while I am all about accountability, I have to say I am a bit surprised to see the Fiscal Court wanting to make others accountable while they have some problems themselves. All you have to do is check out State Auditor Crit Luallen’s Audits of Henry County. In the January 2010 audit Ms. Luallen found that “there were several errors made in the preparation of the financial statements.” In the Dec. 2008 audit, State Auditor Luallen found that “The County does not have a sufficient understanding of the information presented in the financial statements.” she went on to say “...the fourth quarter financial report was not prepared accurately for all funds,” and concludes that the county has “an inability to prepare the required financial statements.” To quote Judge Executive John Logan Brent: “…some things just don’t get done.” Auditor Luallen went on to say in the report that “The County does not maintain a list of approved employee pay rate schedules. Furthermore, there is no record of an employee’s approved pay rate in the personnel files to verify that the correct pay rates are being used.“
And yet Judge-Executive John Logan Brent wants to get his hands on, uh I mean, hold the Fire Departments of Henry County accountable.
Magistrate Nick Hawkins said “Legally we (The Fiscal Court) don’t have authority over the Fire Departments, but what we can do is not collect money for departments that don’t meet the county’s requirements.”
I am very concerned about what effect Nick Hawkins’ great plan of withholding said funds would ultimately have on the citizens of Henry County. If a fire department does not get those funds, and runs out of money, what happens when someone’s home burns down? Then there is the added cost of paying for the audits, and where will that cost be passed on to? Oh yeah, I know, the taxpayer. And let’s say a fire department had to reduce, or close up due to their funds not being collected. A house burns down, and everyone’s home owner’s insurance companies get wind of it? Any guesses what happens next? …anyone? Oh yeah, bet I know, our home owner’s rates will go up. This sounds like a winner to me
Thank the Lord for attorneys! (Did I say that?) Nick Hawkins sounded disappointed when he said “I wanted to withhold funds until they meet standards. The attorneys said we can’t do that.” Darn it anyway!
And Nick Hawkins went unopposed this past election?