Frustrated by what members of the Hempstead County Quorum Court considered as bureaucratic overreach, the Court nonetheless accepted the 2012 Legislative Audit report of county finances Thursday, and supported Hempstead County Sheriff James Singleton's explanations for the manner in which construction contracts were awarded on three jail projects.
Audit findings covered three general points, including a lack of segregation of duties concerning the handling of receivables in each countywide office; a lack of formal action by Hempstead County Judge Wallace Martin incorporating the audit into the minutes of the court; and, construction contracts and clothing purchases by Singleton's office.
County Clerk Sandra Rodgers said the finding regarding segregation of duties is a staple of the Legislative Audit Division.
“It's in every audit for every county for every year,” Rodgers said. “That finding about segregation of duties; it's in everybody's audit.”
She said Martin was sent a letter calling him before the Joint Legislative Audit Committee in Little Rock to explain why the court hadn't acted on an audit finding which, as it turned out, had not been received by the county at that point.
“They wrote us up because we don't discuss the findings in taking action,” Rodgers said. “I always thought that approving it was taking action. This year, they sent Wallace a letter asking him to come before the Legislative Audit because we hadn't approved the 2012 audit finding, and we hadn't received the audit. I called them back and said, 'It's hard for us to approve it or discuss it if we don't have it, yet.'”
She said the audit arrived two or three days later.
Eighth Judicial District-North Prosecuting Attorney Christi McQueen, who acts as attorney for the court, was asked to read the audit findings as they related to Martin and Singleton's offices into the minutes.
The finding relative to Singleton's office stated that he had skirted state law regarding the bidding process on a new roof and HVAC system for the Hempstead County Detention Center by relying upon estimates for those projects when no bidders responded to advertisements for bids, and that he allowed a payment to a contractor before a bid was formally awarded on expansion of the sheriff's department offices.
Auditors also questioned clothing purchases by Singleton relative to their not being reported on his federal tax W-2 as income.
Singleton denied each finding in a response to the state and in a report to the quorum court.
At that juncture, County Finance Chair District 10 JP Lynn Montgomery proceeded to a vote on accepting the audit.
“On the judge's, I guess we need to say that we discussed it and, I guess we need a motion on that,” Montgomery said. “And, on the sheriff's, he gave everybody a copy of his explanations, and if there is not any questions about it, the bid thing is pretty well clear, and the clothing thing, he didn't buy all that stuff for himself, he bought some for some deputies.”
Page 2 of 2 - County Clerk Sandra Rodgers asked Montgomery to include a notice in his motion that the county does have contracted services for computer security with the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope to clarify the county's response to another portion of the audit findings.
“We have a disaster recovery and continuity plan, not only for the whole county but for every office, and we renew it every year,” Rodgers said. “I don't know why that was in there; we have a contract signed with the college.”
She said that should something happen to the Hempstead County Courthouse, county officers have the ability to use UACCH computers to keep the county government operating, and the county maintains backup databases in order to do so.
“These auditors, I've been dealing with them for a lot of years,” Montgomery said. “And, if you call them about a problem you've been having, they tell you to go on and do things like you've been doing them; and, if you try to get them to write something down, they will not do that.”
After discussion about the need for a formal vote, Montgomery noted that, “This ought to be enough discussion to show them that we discussed it.”
The vote to accept the audit was unanimous.
In one other matter, the court adopted an ordinance to incorporate a $2,500 donation from Walmart into the special project category of the Hempstead County Special Drug Court budget.