Sullivan audit committee meets with state auditors

J. H. Osborne • Mar 6, 2020 at 10:45 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County’s Audit Committee met with state auditors Thursday to go over the state’s most recent review of the county’s finances. That audit, which covered a year’s worth of county bookkeeping for the period ending June 30, 2019, was the most critical the county has received in years. The state found significant problems in the office of Sullivan County Trustee Susan Ramsey.

The audit was released last month. State law requires the county to have an audit committee and for that audit committee to meet at least once per year to review the audit. County Mayor Richard Venable recently announced he had appointed that committee and members are commissioners: John Gardner, Colette George and Dwight King. Joining them at the table on Thursday to meet with four state auditors were Venable and Sullivan County Accounts and Budgets Director Larry Bailey.

George spurred much of the discussion, asking state auditors how serious the findings were regarding Ramsey’s office, if the county needed to further address potential corrective action (i.e., hire more employees or other outside assistance), and if, from what they’ve seen so far this budget cycle, if they think the negative findings could turn up again in the county’s next audit.

The auditors said they’ve not looked at ongoing operations in Ramsey’s office. One said running the trustee’s office means staying on top of everything on a daily basis, that nothing could be set aside to do later. The same auditor asked if Ramsey had been meeting the state-mandated deadline to file a monthly report with Bailey’s office. A staffer from Bailey’s office said Ramsey did file the report on time, by the 10th of the month, in February — for the first time. The state auditor asked if the reports that have been filed so far have been correct. The staffer didn’t answer, at first, but ultimately said the Feb. 10 report had required a couple of revisions, which were completed by Feb. 11.

As for more staff or outside help, Bailey said he is confident a $30-per-hour contract worker he brought on board to work on things in Ramsey’s office is making progress and there shouldn’t be a need for additional help. Bailey said the contract worker, a former state auditor, doesn’t have a set end date for completion of work in Ramsey’s office — and that in the long run the contract worker might need to make periodic visits to monitor activities in Ramsey’s office.

King asked if the money to pay the contract worker was already in Ramsey’s departmental budget. Bailey said yes. George asked if that money was there because Ramsey permanently closed satellite offices in Kingsport and Bristol last year, eliminating the positions of two employees. Bailey confirmed that was where the money came from. At the time of the closures, Ramsey said she was eliminating the offices and two employees to save money.

Auditors said the findings are serious. They also said the fact it was Ramsey’s first year in office could account for some of the problems.

Some of what the auditors touched on from their review of bookkeeping in Ramsey’s office:

In the cash in bank account, deposits totaling $516,062 were not receipted and posted to the general ledger, deposits totaling $1,208,733 were not receipted and posted to the general ledger until after June 30, and interest earned of $694,931 was not receipted and posted to the general ledger. In the short-term accounts, interest earned totaling $60,175 was not receipted and posted. In the investment accounts, interest earned of $333,622 was not receipted and posted, and transfers from cash in bank totaling $10,230,956 were not posted.

No money was found to be missing. To the contrary, auditors identified $18,131 that they couldn’t determine where it belongs. 

“It’s in the bank,” and auditor said. “We just don’t know how it got there.”

The audit committee is required to make a report to the full commission.

The site administrator has disabled comments for this story.