Auditor: Lanett has an internal control problem

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, November 17, 2021

LANETT — The Lanett City Council approved an audit for the 2020 fiscal year Monday evening, but not without a warning from Phillip Morgan, whose Birmingham accounting firm has been doing the city’s audits for a number of years now.

Morgan said the city has an internal control problem that is leaving it in a vulnerable position.

“It can be overridden by someone in authority,” he said.

Morgan said his company didn’t find any problems with the city’s reported finances but stressed “you need the right environment and the right person at the top.”

The “right person at the top” comment was no doubt a reference to the city’s former mayor, Kyle McCoy, who several weeks ago was removed from office by the state attorney general’s office after pleading guilty to two ethics violations.

Morgan said the audit had been delayed by the ethics investigation.

“We stayed out of their way as they were doing their work,” he said.

Like any audit, this most recent financial review is based on information received and a thorough review of the city’s financial records. It shows the city to be in a relatively strong financial situation. Thanks in large measure to a federal grants for the continuing airport and streetscape projects, plus the Covid relief money from the federal government, the city increased its net position by more than $3 million, while continuing with street improvements and adding new equipment such as police cars, a new ambulance and a grapple truck. The city ended the year with $550,000 in cash projected funds and with the electrical, gas and sewer departments having a collective net positive balance of more than $11 million. The city also improved its debt position,

James Floyd asked to be on the agenda to ask some specific questions of the council about the recent controversy and why it did not why show up in an audit.

The ethics charges against the former mayor included not paying an estimated $43,000 in utility bills for his home and business with no consequence.

“How did this escape the view of the auditor? Are you considering charging the auditor?” Floyd asked.

Any such charges would have to come from the attorney general’s office, not from the council, and Morgan did explain why it wouldn’t show up.

Floyd said this recent situation underscored the need to hire a city manager.

“I think we need one,” he said.

Floyd noted that the council did have a financial committee and asked if there were any minutes to any of their meetings. Council Member Charles Looser, who presently heads the council’s Finance, Personnel, License and Insurance Committee, said that no minutes were kept at such meetings, and they could only review the information they were given.

City Attorney Stanley Gray told the council that they were under no obligation to answer questions posed by Floyd or anyone else who would ask to be on the agenda.

“The purpose of this is for you to be heard,” he told Floyd.

Floyd said he understood that. He made the case that city residents deserve some assurance from the present council that situations like this won’t be taking place again in the future.

Mayor Jamie Heard appointed a three-member committee made up of council members Tifton Dobbs, Charles Looser and Angelia Thomas to come up with a job description for a city manager and to make a recommendation on hangar and tie-down leases at the airport. There have been multiple inquiries about this in recent weeks.