State examiners have come to Carbon Hill

Posted

UPDATE:

The Daily Mountain Eagle was incorrect in saying that state examiners were not looking at financial records in Carbon Hill City Hall this week.

Based on a phone call, the Eagle reported Thursday that auditors from the state Department of Examiners of Public Accounts did not come to City Hall. 

However, the Eagle - which also incorrectly quoted Interim City Clerk Janice Pendley when it should have quoted new City Clerk Sherry Garner - used the phrase "auditor" instead of "examiner," leading to confusion that the Eagle was asking about the city's auditor from Fayette. The auditor had not been at City Hall that week, but examiners from the state have been working this week. 

The Eagle regrets the error and any confusion it caused. 

In addition, Walker County District Attorney Bill Adair released a statement Thursday, saying, “State auditors have been to Carbon Hill, and they are currently investigating the situation. The City of Carbon Hill is cooperating with that investigation.”

Adair said his office has been in touch with the officials with the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts since an issue with the city’s financial records were recently reported.

The story was updated as of 11 a.m. and again at 1 p.m. Thursday with the correction in the story and the headline, and with the new comments from Adair. 

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CARBON HILL - State examiners from the state came to Carbon Hill City Hall this week to look at the city's finances. 

At Monday night's meeting of the Carbon Hill City Council, which had been delayed a week, Mayor Mark Chambers said, "I spoke to the office of public examiners (the state Department of Examiners of Public Accounts) today and they will be here at 9 o'clock in the morning." He said that might allow an inventory of the records so that the city would understand its finances. 

Interim City Clerk Janice Pendley said Monday night the city had told the examiners the situation and had requested the department come to look at the records. After hearing the plea, they agreed to come. 

Pendley said on Thursday the examiners had come. A report on Thursday by the Eagle that the examiners had not come was incorrect and corrected by the Eagle online Thursday. 

On Dec. 2, the council heard Pendley say in a work session that receipt records have not been found yet to balance records, with tens of thousands of dollars unaccounted for over several years, including $65,000 in alcohol tax revenue alone. The city was missing a massive paper trail of records, going back about three years, and that officials said they would  have to work with other parties it has dealt with to solve a large mystery.

Retirement payments, usually costing $950 a week, was behind since March, and some payments to the IRS had been due since 2016. Money appears to be owed to the state by way of its municipal court. Pendley has had to call to utilities to see what is owed. 

The city was also expected to have to live within its means, at least for months, and possibly work out deals in order to catch up on payments, especially to the state and IRS. 

The council had been growingly concerned that they have not been getting a full financial report on the city finances, and it was recently revealed the city is several years behind on audits. Council members felt they were more informed after Pendley made a report at this month's work session. 

On Monday, Pendley gave the council an updated financial report. She said that the city had $66,000 in the bank for the General Fund. "You have a list of bills to pay that will hopefully get us through the end of the month," she said. "Those came up to around $8,000." Once those are paid, that will take the city down to $16,000 left over, counting two more payrolls.

She is expecting $28,000 additional in tax revenue for the General Fund by the end of the month or early January. Added with the $16,000, some of those funds can be used toward a debt of $45,000 involving employee retirement, she said. 

The council also voted for a one-time pay raise for employees, timed for Christmas - $200 for full-time employees and $100 for part-time employees, all to be paid out on Dec. 20. Chambers said it was the same amount given last year and the employees depend on the money to buy gifts for Christmas. District 3 Councilwoman April Dawn Herron said the council was not going to "punish our employees for what is going on," apparently referring to the finances.

In addition, Walker County District Attorney Bill Adair released a statement Thursday, saying, “State auditors have been to Carbon Hill, and they are currently investigating the situation. The City of Carbon Hill is cooperating with that investigation.”

Adair said his office has been in touch with the officials with the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts since an issue with the city’s financial records were recently reported.

In other action at Monday's meeting the council: 

• Approved a new industrial time clock, as the old one broke down that afternoon after use of only a year. At the recommendation of Police Chief Eric House, the council selected a industrial version over a regular time clock, as it only cost $212.49, versus $188.47 for the smaller version the city has been using. The same time cards can be used, and the new version is designed to have a higher number of uses. The device will be purchased through an Amazon supplier company online, which would be cheaper than some other local vendors.

• Appointed Sherry Garner City Clerk and and watched as she was sworn in by Pendley, who will continue to work for the city. 

• Voted to approve a request by Riaz Kassim for a license to sell beer and possibly wine at the Carbon Hill Food Mart, Inc. (Chevron) at Mill Creek. Pendley said this involved new owners. Killingsworth abstained during the vote. 

• Heard the mayor remind the council the second meeting of the month was cancelled due to the holidays. 

• Voted to make Brittany Chambers - a dispatcher who is in line to be the dispatch supervisor - a salaried employee in relation to being on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Herron said she has witnessed how she has been called out at early morning hours and being on salary more than compensates being on overtime. House suggested her hourly wage be raised from $13 to $15, putting her close to supervisory salaries in the city.

Herron moved for $15 an hour on a 40-hour week, and allow her to take out insurance when she qualified for it.

The mayor said, "She is still on me and her mother's insurance until she is 26 years old, and after that then she will still need insurance if she is still here." Herron said she wanted to make sure she would be able to take the insurance when she is ready, and later thanked her for her service, noting she had done a great deal to that point.