Monday, November 13, 2000

State won't revise audit in Deerfield

Trustee says report was too harsh

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        DEERFIELD TWP. — The state auditor's office has rejected Trustee Bill Morand's request for a revised audit of Deerfield's 1999 finances and a written apology from a department spokesman who made disparaging remarks about the report.

        Deputy Chief Auditor Daniel E. Schultz Jr., sent a scathing letter to Mr. Morand saying the auditor's office stands by its earlier review of the township's books and the harsh comments it made.

        “I believe that our audit report fairly states the condition of the township's accounting records and Mitch Givens' comments portray our concerns about significant deficiencies in the internal controls and accountability at the township,” Mr. Schultz said in the Oct. 31 letter. “While Mitch Givens' comments may be somewhat harsh, poor accounting records, significant lapses in accountability and lack of cooperation are the ingredients for future financial problems.”

        Mr. Schultz added the 1999 audit released last month is not the first in which the township has received poor marks.

        He pointed to a 1996-97 audit containing two material budgetary compliance citations, five management letter compliance citations and four internal control comments. A material citation is the most serious audit penalty outside of a fine for recovery.

        Mr. Schultz's comments came six days after Mr. Morand wrote a seven-page letter to the state auditor's office demanding a revised audit and an apology from Mitch Givens, director of public affairs.

        Mr. Morand said the review painted an unfair por trait of the township's financial situation and that Mr. Givens' comments only reinforced that false perception.

        “I just felt the comments that were made about the audit report were too strong and not in line with the actual findings of the report. They deserved to be recanted,” Mr. Morand said Thursday. “Deerfield is one of the most financially viable townships in Ohio. We are not going broke.”

        The eight-month audit revealed Deerfield Township suffered from expenditure, payroll and bidding problems. Mr. Givens told The Enquirer that township officials were “in jeopardy of having a financial crisis” and would probably receive a “D- minus” on a standard grading scale.

        Mr. Morand told the auditor's office many of the findings identified in the report could be explained and discredited by township officials.

        He also questioned if auditors recognized the politically charged atmosphere present in Deerfield Township. Trustees and Township Clerk Kristin Spiekerman have been at odds since she took office April 1.

        Mr. Schultz told Mr. Morand auditors were well aware of the political angst in the township and reminded him that auditors attempted to complete the review while former clerk Ben Dotson was still in office. However, those efforts were delayed because of some bookkeeping errors made by Mr. Dotson, he said.

        “I believe we have made every effort to incorporate all the documents and comments which all the officials, both current and former, made to our staff,” Mr. Schultz said.

        Mr. Morand said he was disappointed with the auditor's office's response to his request, but admitted it wasn't entirely unexpected. He said trustees plan to follow all of the auditor's recommendations and have already put a few into motion.


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