Glynn County’s finance committee recommended at a Tuesday meeting that the Glynn County Commission hire Atlanta-based auditing firm Bates, Carter and Co. to perform a forensic audit to identify exactly how much money is missing and from what accounts in the Clerk of Superior Court’s office.
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the missing money is at around $673,000, but other than that, county Chief Financial Officer Tonya Miller said county officials had not received much data from the agency. For one, she said the GBI only audited the financials that were handled by the person alleged to have stolen the money. She also said the audit only extended from January 2011 to May 2014.
While the GBI was investigating, the agency asked the county not to perform its own audit. The county has since given the go-ahead.
“The county staff went through the identification and selection process (for an auditing firm) over a year ago, and we had to wait on the GBI to complete their investigation before they would allow us to audit the books,” County Manager Alan Ours said previously.
The county’s audit will use January 2011 as starting date, the same date the GBI used, but will be looking at the office’s financial records up to Dec. 31, 2016, the last day of former clerk Darren Jones’ term, and will be a broader inspection of the office’s agreed upon bookkeeping procedures. This is to give newly-elected clerk Ron Adams a fresh start from which to move forward, officials have said.
Miller said Adams had been spending much of his own time looking through financial records and found evidence to suggest that the person alleged to have taken the money had been doing so since they were hired in 2008. Should the auditing firm find as much, they will begin looking further back than 2011. No charges have been filed in the GBI’s case, which is now in the hands of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Council of Georgia.
“There was a person that was a bookkeeper from the period of July of 2008 until, I think, November of 2014 who some have suspected his actions needed to be investigated,” Adams said. “And so, based on that period, I just thought it made more sense to look at the entire tenure of their employment.”
The committee recommended the county commit an amount not exceed $25,000 for the audit. According to Miller, Bates, Carter partner Beth Grimes could be ready to begin the audit by Tuesday. As such, the county commission will discuss the matter and possibly take a vote on it at its work session that day, Jan. 17. The time has yet to be announced, but county work sessions are typically held at 3 p.m in the second floor conference room of the Harold Pate Courthouse Annex, 1725 Reynolds St. in Brunswick.
“I am encouraged that they have selected and are engaging someone to do a forensic audit. I am encouraged by that,” Adams said Tuesday.
Adams and deputy clerk Maria Jacobs have been going back through the financials to prepare as many records of interest for the auditors ahead of time as they can.
“We’ve been working on that and there’s additional information that we need to retrieve from banks, and we’ve identified the information we need,” Adams said.
The new clerk of Superior Court is looking forward to putting the issue behind him.
“I look forward to the day when I can worry about making decisions just from this point forward and not trying to go back to 2008 to try to figure out what happened that far back into the past,” Adams said. “When we have a good list of who is owed how much money by this office and we can fulfill all this office’s obligations, that will be a good day for Glynn County.”
In other business, the finance committee recommended the county commission approve a request for $6,488 so the Glynn County Police Department can hire part-time officers for special events, especially the upcoming airshow in March, and recommended approval of a request to install safety equipment at a crosswalk on Frederica Road between Magnolia Manor and St. Williams Catholic Church.
The vote passed 2-1 because one committee member didn’t want to open a can of worms and have people from all over the county asking for improvements to crosswalks.
The committee also recommended acceptance of a $30,000 proposal to have Denise Grabowski continue to work with the planning and zoning department until April 1.
Ours said a candidate for the planning manager position turned down a job offer. The department is currently understaffed after two planners and the director of community development left in 2016. A new director has since been hired, but there is still only one planner in the office.