ASHEVILLE — During its meeting on Jan. 16, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners is slated to hear a report by County Manager Mandy Stone on internal controls the board has developed since the departure of former County Manager Wanda Greene.
Greene, who retired from her position on June 30, is under investigation by the FBI.
The board has outlined four reforms, according to documents available on the County Commission website:
1) If it is determined that public funds have been used for illegal or unethical purposes, the Board of Commissioners instruct the county manager to continue efforts to recover funds, as legally permissible.
2) The Board of Commissioners shall provide a performance review of all appointed staff (county manager, chief financial officer, county clerk, board of commissioners attorney) in July of each year. Due to the special circumstances of fiscal year 2018, the BOC will also conduct a midyear goal-setting session and review with appointed staff to take place no later than February 2018.
3) The chief financial officer will provide public budget to actual reports at the first Board of Commissioners meeting of each month; and
4) On a quarterly basis, the internal auditor shall report to the Board of Commissioners on the current priorities of the internal audit committee.
Reviewing the county audit
In new business, commissioners will hear the results of the county audit for fiscal year 2017, which was performed by the Gould Killian CPA Group.
The firm, which acted as the county’s external auditor, summarized the results of the audit during a special meeting of the Buncombe County audit committee on Dec. 12. Gould Killian issued clean opinions and reported no material weaknesses in internal control and no material noncompliance with laws and regulations (see “County receives clean opinion from external auditors,” Dec. 13, Xpress). A clean opinion means that the auditor has sampled, assessed and tested county financial records and has found nothing that would result in a misstatement of the county’s financial situation.
During the Dec. 12 meeting, members of the committee were skeptical of the notion that auditors did not find material weaknesses in internal control. In a letter posted with the Jan. 16 agenda on the County Commission webpage, audit committee Chair Larry Harris clarifies that external auditors are not required to audit internal control processes and procedures. Instead, they “are required to make note if in the course of their audit a material weakness in internal control over financial reporting or compliance with major federal or state programs is identified,” he explains in the letter.
Harris writes that Gould Killian did not identify material weaknesses in these areas in the course of performing work on the audit for fiscal year 2017, which ended on June 30. However, he writes that, because the audit committee has a broader scope of influence, the committee does have specific comments on the county’s internal control mechanisms:
“The most effective internal controls over county assets become much less so in an environment that affords senior management extremely broad powers over financial resources and personnel,” Harris writes. “In addition, the effectiveness of the internal audit function in prior years was limited, given the internal auditor reported to senior management for all practical purposes. From this broader perspective, the Audit Committee believes that internal controls were weak during FYE 6/30/17 and likely in preceding fiscal years in which these conditions were the rule.”
In other business
Commissioners are scheduled to vote on whether to refund excise taxes for two law firms that overpaid. The board will also decide whether to donate ambulances to two nonprofit organizations that have requested them: the Fairview Volunteer Fire Department and the Buncombe County Rescue Squad.
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will meet at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 16 in room 326 at 200 College St. in downtown Asheville.
To see the agenda and supplementary materials, click here.
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