Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Was $15,000 Review of Performance Audit Beneficial to North Canton?

Prepared Comments Made to
April 25, 2011

It is no secret that the City of North Canton is struggling financially. Not only is that fact front and center in weekly discussions at city council meetings, it is apparent in the condition of the City’s infrastructure in this community we call home. Are City dollars being spent wisely?

Three years ago on February 11, 2008, North Canton City Council passed legislation to authorize the Auditor of State to undertake a Performance Audit to identify cost savings for City operations. On January 6, 2009, after nearly a one-year audit of city operations at a cost of approximately $62,000, the Auditor of State made 40 recommendations to the City in a 123 page report.

Not long after the release of the Performance Audit by the Auditor of State, City e-mails, dated May 14, 2009, indicate that then City Administrator Earl Wise was advised by Bruner-Cox that Mayor Held had asked their CPA firm “to assist The City of North Canton in regards to the January 6, 2009, Performance Audit….”

On July 13, 2009, Mayor Held signed a Letter of Agreement (LOA) with Bruner-Cox, LLP.

On October 14, 2009, former City Administrator Earle Wise signed a purchase order authorizing the expenditure of $15,000 for the review of the Performance Audit by Bruner-Cox. Three months later on January 9, 2010, a 32-page draft report labeled “Review of the North Canton City Performance Audit Project” was released.

Why has North Canton not received the final report that is contractually promised in the LOA? The last two bullet points in Attachment A of the LOA state that “[Bruner-Cox] will meet with North Canton City Council to review the draft of the report….[and] issue a final report to mayor and council.” This has never happened!

I spoke on this issue before City Council on July 12, 2010, in a presentation titled “$15,000 Audit of State Auditor’s Performance Audit Was an Utter Waste of Public Funds” (found in the minutes of the meeting
and online at http://opengovernment4nc.blogspot.com).

The Bruner-Cox review consisted of a replication of the recommendations made in the Auditor of State’s Performance Audit with the addition of very brief information from city department heads that was already generally known or could be found out in a brief telephone call.

Mayor Held, you stated last year that “[you] did support and authorize Bruner Cox to come in and provide oversight to the City… and that [you were] very confident, very comfortable with the work that Bruner-Cox did.”

I do not believe that North Canton City Council shares that position given that there was discussion under the Finance and Property Committee on July 6, 2010, to limit spending by your administration without an appropriation from council. Unfortunately, Council never moved forward with action on this.

Given that taxpayers have paid out $15,000 for this review, I ask that the Bruner-Cox Draft report be posted on the City’s Web site along with the State’s Performance Audit to allow residents to judge whether the City really benefited from a review of the Performance Audit for an added expense of $15,000 to the City.

Thank you,
Chuck Osborne,
Resident, City of North Canton