TALLADEGA — City Council unanimously approved a contract with Covering Your Assets/Jeffrey’s Consulting for accounting services at a cost of $125 per hour per specialist. There is also a $5,000 upfront fee.
According to City Manager Seddrick Hill, the city has hired the company before, during times of transition to the finance department. The city has had at least three chief financial officers under the current administration, and the position is currently held on an interim basis by Chief Purchasing Officer Renea Blackburn. Inconsistencies in receipts and reconciliation of purchase orders are among the issues they will likely need to address.
According to a letter from the company to the city, the work under the contract would be to “update your reconciliation of bank statements, starting with the water department, as we know that the audit of this funds are required for current bond compliance; review bond trust records for the year to assist in recording debt inflows; assist HR/Payroll in identifying, compiling and providing information requested from your actuary” for pension benefits ending September 30, 2021, working with an external auditor to ensure that all closing entries have been made; review unrecorded receipts and review pending purchases” as well that checks that have not been properly applied to purchase orders over the past year (and) from the review, assist in the closing of purchase orders to mitigate issues. budget overruns and approval of current expenditures.”
The letter goes on to say that the company will begin by addressing the water service issues and should resolve them fairly quickly. They will then communicate with the city what needs to be done next.
“As the inconsistency of cash receipt accounting and payment of invoices without proper application of open purchase orders are very significant issues, we believe these are the next items that will need to be resolved,” according to the letter. “Once we have been granted access to your systems, we will draw up a game plan for these two elements and discuss them with you and establish an expected timetable. Once an agreement has been reached on the planned approach, we will divide and conquer the completion of tasks.
The letter does not specify what these inconsistencies might be.
The letter goes on to add that the firm “does not mean this will be a quick fix. We hope, however, that knowing you have a skilled team that understands the issues and evolves with your needs and the best interests of the city will bring you some comfort in knowing that they are moving towards a resolution.
After the meeting, Hill released a statement through the city’s public information office explaining, “Municipalities, along with business and industry, are struggling to attract and retain talent. Due to high turnover and inconsistent practices, our accounting procedures needed to be improved and appropriate internal controls needed to be put in place. I decided to use this company because they had been used by the city in the past and they did a great job. I will catch up on 2020 audits and 2018 capital improvement projects. This will keep us performing and up to date, and help us maintain good accounting practices. Although these issues were inherited, now is an opportunity for me (and my team) to improve, and we will get there.
The contract approval was an addition to Monday’s agenda, along with an executive session proposal. It was not clear if the executive session had to do with the contract, but in any case it never took place.
City Attorney Mike O’Brien, responding to a question from council chairman Dr. Horace Patterson, said the issue Hill planned to discuss with the council during the executive session did not fall under any of the exceptions. legally recognized under the Open Meetings Act and would need to be discussed in public.
When the contract was presented for approval, Councilman Joe Power initially said he was unaware of what was being presented. Hill said he spoke with all council members individually.
This contract is separate from the one also approved on Monday for the city’s regular third-party verification. This contract was for $68,000, the same as last year.
Also on Monday evening, the advice:
—Witnessed Mayor Timothy Ragland swearing in Reverend High Morris as a member of the Board of Adjustments and Appeals.
—Donated $2,500 to Talladega College for “The Big Comeback,” this year’s debut event and alumni reunion.
—Contribution of $1,500 to the Talladega High School track team and its efforts to build a practice track. The request was for $3,000, but at least one councilman and several people in the public pledged to donate privately to the effort.
—Did not proceed with a request for funding from the RR Moten Alumni Education Center Foundation, the nonprofit that took over the old Sycamore Elementary School building. The board was responsive to the request, but had questions about donating so far outside the city limits.
—Approved a liquor license application for Murphy Oil.
—Approved an expansion of the area covered by the frontage grant program.
—Approved an agreement with NASCAR for the free use of video footage for the promotion of tourism in the city, but for no other purpose.
—App authorized for the Main Street Alabama program.
-Discussion filed of an agreement with the Omega Academy of Science and Fine Arts for the former East Side Head Start building, pending public hearings in Ward 2.
—Filed an agreement with Brentwood Capital Partners pending questions on termination language.
—Announced that there will be a meeting called Friday to vote on the historic zoning overlay.