Column/Where’s the money?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 8, 2007

I was recently asked during a presentation I made to the Selma Rotary Club if I ever had anything good to say about anybody or any thing.

Being aware that our Independence Day was fast approaching, I responded by suggesting that our Founding Fathers were a great group of patriots.

Without George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, et al, it is doubtful that any of us would be here today.

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Other good news, locally, is that Gov. Riley has exercised great judgment in appointing Buddy Perkins to the Airport Authority, thus thwarting our mayor, who I believe to be a “control freak” attempting to gain control of the critically important Craig Industrial and Airport Authority operation.

I also feel that Chief Martin’s resignation and the news that the St. James Hotel will be under new management soon are also good news.

Now, for the dreaded bad news along with the big question: Where are the millions of dollars (Selma taxpayers’ money) that are going into the city’s coffers to finance city government? The 2006 Auditor’s Report is out and is almost a duplicate of the 2005 report, which blasted the city’s finance department.

Of course, although the finance department deserves to be criticized, the real blame falls on the doorstep of Mayor James Perkins Jr. who loves to take credit for any good news but doesn’t want to address the awful mess regarding the city’s finances.

I believe the mayor’s top responsibility is public safety. His next most important function is exercising fiscal responsibility.

Having failed at both, I believe Perkins should be asked to resign by the city council.

This won’t happen because the mayor controls the council, thanks to council members Crenshaw, Venter, Randolph and Leashore, who almost always vote the way the mayor wants them to. Perhaps the most discouraging thing about the 2006 report is that no appreciable adjustments in accounting procedures have taken place since the 2005 audit. Why?

The auditors used the exact characterization for both reports saying, “This year’s closing process was marked by confusion, delays and problems caused by miscommunication among the accounting personnel.”

Since our current mayor took office in the fall of 2000, there have been six annual audits, and to my knowledge, none of these audits have been reconciled. If so, this is the epitome of fiscal irresponsibility.

Hopefully, a resurrection of the St. James will occur, thus eventually producing an increase in the lodging tax revenues and more money being spent in Selma’s stores and restaurants.

Some of the other comments in the fiscal year audit report were: “Bank statements not reconciled to the appropriate general ledger account on a monthly basis.

A check payable to the Selma School Board, outstanding for several months, was discovered in a desk drawer of the assistant treasurer.”

“In a monthly review of the general ledger – account groups covering cash, accounts receivable, prepaid expenses, fixed assets, accounts payable, other liabilities and long-term debt – had not been reconciled, reviewed, or agreed to the general ledger.”

Accounts were not reconciled, pertaining to “restitution funds and confiscated drug money during the year.”

The auditors were told that, “supporting documentation could not be provided.” This one sounds really “fishy” to me and makes me question where the money is?

If Mayor Perkins really cares about Selma and the well-being of its citizens, he should announce immediately that he will not be running for reelection as mayor.

At the same time he should take the necessary steps to completely reconcile every category of the city’s finances and publish a full and accurate disclosure for the taxpayers to see and understand.

Until then Mayor Perkins, the question still stands – where’s the money?

Byrd Looper is a regular columnist for The Times-Journal.