Inability to produce the proper paper trail for federal funds issued to Commerce during 2007 and 2008 continues to cause problems for the city, the Commerce City Council learned during their regular meeting Tuesday night.
The accounting firm, Turner and Associates, who was initially secured to audit the city’s financials, recently resigned from the project.
“After (Bill) Turner looked at them he said there were too many holes in the financials, that he couldn’t give an opinion and basically sent a letter saying he was resigning as the auditor for our audit,” said Jeb Jones, City Public Works Director.
Jones said the issues they had were federal EPA dollars that could not be accounted for.
“He was worried it would have to be a disclaimed audit,” Jones said.
Jones told the council that after receiving the notice from Turner, he contacted Crawford and Associates, the same Oklahoma City firm that audits the City of Miami, and explained the situation and Crawford agreed to take on the project.
“Keep in mind they’re the best so they’re not the cheapest,” Jones said, “But we are going to get it done and it will be done right.”
Crawford asked if Turner would stay on and do the audit if Crawford would do the financials and Jones said the two agreed to work together.
Jones said the financials have been turned over to Crawford and Associates to begin the work but said it would be 30 to 45 days before they get started and that the audit might take a year to complete.
“I think this is an excellent move,” City attorney Erik Johnson told the council. “We don’t have any problem right now with the state auditor’s office but if we did then Crawford and Associates is who we would have to retain anyway.”
Payment to an accountant for a recent Commerce Housing Authority audit drew questions from councilwoman Lena Enochs, which spurred a heated discussion initiated by Ward 4 Councilman Jim Long.
“I find it very difficult, since you had oversight of the Commerce Housing Authority, given to you by Johnny Crawford, that you find it difficult to spend money on an audit that you didn’t ask for at all when you had oversight of the Housing Authority,” Long said.
Long, who currently sits on the CHS board, questioned Enochs about not seeing the Housing Authority audit through.
Enochs responded saying paperwork, which Johnson clarified as the Trust Indenture, an agreement that forms the Housing Authority, was lost. Long said that with approval from Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the city assisted the CHA in the audit expenses because the CHA is broke and that the audit was considered an emergency and did not require pre-approval from the city council.
HUD funds, are reportedly, being withheld, until they receive a copy of the Trust Indenture, which cannot be located.
In other business, the council heard a report from Jones on a plan for the installation of an irrigation system to land apply the city’s lagoon discharge. Jones said they have secured a property owner who is very interested in allowing the city to lease 500 plus acres for the irrigation system.
“We were hoping to make some small modifications, maybe $200,000 but we’re not going to get by with that,” Jones said.
The estimated cost of the project is $700,000, which, Jones said, is less than the $3.5 million it would take to build and maintain a wastewater treatment facility. Jones said the financing for the project would have to be secured by a loan from the Oklahoma Water Resources board. Jones said that since Commerce is under consent order, they would be put on a priority list for the funding.
Jones said Grand Gateway also has grants available for infrastructure, however, they require an audit.
“The one problem we have is that we don’t have an audit, that’s the problem you have with getting grant money, is if you don’t have an audit, you don’t get grant money,” Jones said.
The city has been under consent orders from Oklahoma DEQ since 2002.
Jones said the irrigation system would be a permanent solution that the city would not have to come back and re-visit. An engineering report is being prepared and Jones said once complete he will forward them to Alexander Engineering for their review.
No immediate action was needed from the council.
Jones also reported the sidewalks at the
The discussion and considering and possible vote to approve the Commerce Housing Authority Recovery Agreement Action Plan was rescheduled for the next meeting where the council agreed the item qualifies for executive session.