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Who’s watching the county?

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By The Staff

I do not understand the recent actions (or, better, inactions) of the Henry County Local. The Local promises to strive “for accuracy, fairness, and clarity in its coverage’ but recently has been failing to provide any of its promises.   A few  weeks ago the Local published the official notification of the audit of the Henry County Fiscal Court performed by state auditor Crit Luallen.  The audit revealed numerous problems with the county’s accounting practices with the following a direct quotation:      “The county does not have a sufficient understanding of the information presented in the financial statements. Failure to prepare an accurate fourth quarter financial report results in an inability to prepare the required financial statements. The fund balance for the general fund did not agree with the consolidated bank reconciliation and required an adjustment of $7,036 to correct a prior year error. The transactions of the emergency management accounts were not properly included in the balances. The receipts of $1,509 and disbursements of $1,013 were added to the general fund balances. Furthermore, the Treasurer does not receive or review the bank statements of the emergency management accounts. During the tests of revenue, auditors noted three deposits recorded in incorrect revenue accounts. During the test of expenditures, auditors noted one invoice amount posted to an incorrect account number. Auditors were told that using the correct account number would have put that line item over the amount budgeted for the year. Fixed/capital assets additions in the amount of $1,223,342 were not added to the fixed/capital asset listing. Fixed/capital assets deletions in the amount of $58,000 were not removed from the fixed/capital asset listing.”

The auditor’s report makes several recommendations to which Judge Brent is reported to have limply responded: “Due to lack of personnel, some things just don’t get done.”  The audit then listed two more significant accounting deficiencies found in the county books.

The audit and Judge Brent’s reply show — at the very least — the bush-league quality of the county’s accounting. But poor accounting is not just poor accounting: when invoice amounts are “posted to an incorrect account number” because “using the correct account number would have put that line item over the amount budgeted for the year” you are now discussing budgetary lying.

If  anyone wants to read the full audit, it can be found at www.auditor.ky.gov. Although the notification and the broad deficiencies were published in the Local, it has remained otherwise silent.

Perhaps the Local’s lack of investigation is not really surprising.  When Judge Brent had a December 2008 article published about the “Brent Park” financing, he left out several expensive items. He failed to mention the expensive pond bulldozing, the cost of the agreed upon fencing, the payment to Mr Singleton to clean his pond of mud (because the county failed to use proper mudshields), etc.  Ms Priester was at the same meetings as I; she was very aware of the deficiencies in the Judge’s report and yet published it in silence.

Likewise, the Local did not investigate the County employees’ four percent pay increase for 2009  while state employee’s are facing a 3.5 percent pay decrease (a one percent raise and 4.5 percent furlough day decrease). When Judge Brent’s statement “The only thing that will really affect us is if property values dramatically decrease.”  (1/7/09) is again published without comment it shows a lack of understanding by both the Local and the Judge of the effect of the increased foreclosures, short sales, and the decreasing economy on property  values. Henry County — like other counties — is in financial crisis and a four percent pay raise is passed — which also gives the Judge a nice 2009 pay raise of  about $3000!

Henry County has only rarely had a decent grand jury.  The governmental checks and balances (Fiscal Court, judges, county attorney, etc.) just don’t seem to work well in the county.  We need a local paper that actually investigates.  Or perhaps we should no longer debase the name and honor of Patrick Henry and just rename the county.

Steven D White, MD