Thursday, January 29, 2004

Volunteers may oversee W. Chester money issues

State auditor urged township to form advisory group

By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WEST CHESTER TWP. - A volunteer committee of bankers, accountants, auditors or other finance experts will be created to oversee township money issues - and to appease the state auditor.

"I think it's a smart idea for a community this large," said Trustee Jose Alvarez, noting that neighboring Liberty Township has a volunteer financial advisory committee. West Chester, Butler County's largest unincorporated area, has an annual budget of $30 million.

Ohio Auditor Betty Montgomery, in the 2002 township audit report received this month, recommended establishing a committee "to monitor and review the township's accounting and financial reporting practices." She also noted that a similar recommendation in 2001 had been ignored by trustees.

Alvarez said three volunteers would assist Clerk Pat Williams and Finance Director Kacey Waggaman.

Williams, clerk since 1976, greeted the suggestion with a shoulder shrug.

"Since I don't have a vote, you don't need my opinion - but it has been mentioned in two different audits," Williams told trustees. "I really don't see a particular need for this, but I don't see how it would hurt anything."

The 2002 audit cited several bookkeeping problems. It criticized the township for not having enough collateral for township deposits at the People's Community Bank in November 2002, for not keeping a federal highway safety grant in a separate account, and for failure to monitor appropriations from the Union Centre Boulevard tax increment financing debt service fund.

The criticisms were expected by trustees. They knew some township accounts had a negative balance under Scott Campbell, the former township finance director who quit last year before completing the annual audit. Waggaman, a former state auditor's employee, was hired as finance director in August.

Administrator Dave Gully was asked by trustees to write a job description for the committee, and to prepare a solicitation for volunteers.

The audit committee should meet quarterly "to monitor the township's legal compliance, financial condition and controls over the safeguarding of assets," Montgomery said.


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