State examiner refuses to step into Selma audit situation

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 8, 2004

Ronald Jones, chief examiner of the State of Alabama Department of

Examiners of Public Records, denied a request from a trio of Selma City Council members to come in and re-examine the city’s financial audits of the last three years.

“We have suffered a significant loss of staff as a result of our current budget reduction,” Jones wrote in a letter dated July 29. “As a result we will be unable to schedule an audit of the City of Selma.”

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In it’s entirety, Jones’ statement was four lines long.

His letter came in response to a letter sent by the three Selma City Council members who are not running for reelection, Glenn Sexton, Rita Sims-Franklin and Nancy Sewell.

Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr., who has stood behind the work done by Auditor Bill Long, of Caston, Long and Company, wanted to remind the citizens that he had invited the state auditors in back in September of 2003 in an effort to clear the air.

“More recently I asked the city treasurer to follow up with a telephone call re-extending my invitation and expressing my cooperation with any efforts they may initiate,” Perkins said. “I’m glad that Glenn agrees with me in calling for the audit by calling for the public examination of all city finances, not just a few selected transactions,”

In a letter to the Selma Times-Journal, Sexton outlined some of the reasons for his continued concerns.

He cited perceived inconsistencies in the preliminary audit report for the 2002-2003 fiscal year and the final audit report from the 2001-2002.

Sexton pointed out that the audit report ending for the 2001-2002 fiscal year had numbers that did not match the beginning balance for the 2002-2003 audit.

Specifically, the ending balance for the 2001-2002 fiscal year in the general fund was $3,498, 877 while the starting balance for the 2002-2003 fiscal year for the same fund was $4,372,523.

However, the city audit for the 2002-2003 fiscal year was done using the new GASB 34 accounting procedures. GASB 34 changed the way cities handle their accounting procedures and terminology, among other things.

For example, according to a report in the Selma Times-Journal back in April, GASB 34 requires governments to record the depreciation of assets such as cars, buildings, land and equipment.

“We’ll have to record the entries each year,” Long said in April. “Listing them wasn’t even required before.”

According to the April article, Long also had to compile lists of the city’s infrastructure and its value. Infrastructure includes roads, bridges, sewers and streetlights.

“They never had to account for it so cities and states had to go out and find values for it,” Long said at the time. “Governments had to put lots of time and effort into determining.”

Sexton said that the preliminary audit should have had footnotes to explain why the figures were different. Sexton said it is standard accounting procedures for changes in figures to be explained with footnotes.

“If he would have done that, I wouldn’t have come out with the figures I did,” Sexton said.