Tuesday, July 13, 2010

$15,000 Audit of State Auditor’s Performance Audit Was an Utter Waste of Public Funds

Prepared Comments Made to
July 12, 2010

On February 11, 2008, Item 13 on the North Canton City Council agenda was Ordinance No. 10-08. The legislation, presented by the Finance & Property committee for passage on an emergency, was introduced as “authorizing the Mayor of the City of North Canton to enter into a professional services agreement by and between the City of North Canton and the Auditor of State for completion of a Performance Audit of the various City of North Canton departments, in an amount not to exceed $64,500.”

On January 6, 2009, Auditor of State, Mary Taylor, presented her findings in a 123 page report. The cover letter to the Performance Audit is addressed “To the Residents, Mayor, and City Council of the City of North Canton.” In it Taylor states, “The audit provided an independent assessment of select City services and administrative processes, and identified opportunities to optimize operational and service levels. The recommendations in the audit are intended to assist the City in its efforts to prepare for its projected financial condition.”

The Performance Audit is comprehensive in its scope and contains 40 recommendations to help city leaders identify cost savings and opportunities to optimize efficiency and deal with forecasted deficits.

The recommendations are broken down into three major areas. The area of Administration and City Management has 22 recommendations for improved cost savings and efficiencies. The area of Safety Services has nine recommendations as does the area dealing with the City’s Service Departments.

Apparently this “Paint by the Numbers” guide that details specific opportunities to optimize operational and service levels and identify cost savings and opportunities was not of as much help for Mayor David Held as one might expect.

In little more than four months from the January 6, 2009, release of the Performance Audit by the Auditor of State, City e-mails indicate that then City Administrator Earl Wise was advised by Bruner-Cox, on May 14, 2009, that Mayor Held had asked the firm of Bruner-Cox, LLP, “to assist The City of North Canton in regards to the January 6, 2009 Performance Audit….”

Mayor Held, I do not understand and I hope you can explain. Why would anyone need assistance understanding the recommendations made to the City in the Performance Audit?

On July 13, 2009, Mayor Held signed a letter of engagement with Bruner-Cox, LLP. The engagement letter states that their services are “for the purpose of assisting in the proposed review, implementation, and evaluation of the recommendations in the [Performance Audit].”

Why does the City of North Canton, whose Mayor has a master’s degree and a City Administrator who is a licensed attorney need assistance in reviewing, implementing and evaluating recommendations in the Performance Audit?

The engagement letter states that the services that Bruner-Cox are to perform for the City do not constitute an audit made in accordance with generally accepted accounting procedures, commonly referred to as GAAP.

The engagement letter states that fees for the services will range from $12,000 to $15,000.

On October 14, 2009, City Administrator Earle Wise signed a purchase order authorizing the expenditure of $15,000 for the Performance Audit Review by Bruner-Cox.

On January 9, 2010, Bruner-Cox provided a draft of what I call an “Audit” of the “Audit.” The draft is labeled “Review of the North Canton City Performance Audit Project.”

Despite my repeated written records requests to City Administrator Wise for copies of the Bruner-Cox draft report, Administrator Wise has never complied.

At this time, I have no idea if Bruner-Cox has ever complied with the terms of its engagement letter with the City of North Canton with the submission of a final report. It has been six months since the draft report was provided to the City.

What did Mayor Held get for his expenditure of $15,000 of taxpayer funds? Seemingly nothing of any value!

The review of the North Canton City Performance Audit by Bruner-Cox in my opinion is an utter waste of $15,000 in public funds.

The review consists of 32 pages which simply restate the recommendations made in the Performance Audit along with brief interviews with City employees.

Mayor Held, if you wanted to know the current status of operations in the City, why did you not talk to your City Administrator or your department heads?

As a former City Administrator yourself, I would suspect that you were quite personally familiar with City operations and City departments. With six years’ experience in the City of North Canton, two years as City Administrator and nearly four years as Mayor, I do not understand why you felt you needed added guidance into the administration and operation of the City of North Canton.

Mayor, if you are wondering why city council is formulating plans to limit your authority on future expenditures, I do not believe you need to look any further than this expenditure of $15,000.

This expenditure was an “utter waste” at a time when this city can ill afford it. There is no plausible explanation for this waste of taxpayer funds.

How could you possibly think this would have been of any benefit to the City of North Canton?

Why has this expenditure by Mayor Held not been discussed publicly by city council?

Where is the accountability and transparency in government that is so desperately needed here in North Canton?

Thank you,
Chuck Osborne
Resident, City of North Canton