Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County

County's Audit Presentation a Bust - Again
Com. Williams Warns About Spending Reserves 

At times, the PowerPoint presentation was barely visible from anywhere. To read last year's article and compare last year's photo go here: Columbia County's Good Ole' Boy Audit Club

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – The dwindling County residents that attend meetings of the County Commission, (The County 5 or The 5) were treated, once again, to an audit presentation that was confusing, difficult to follow, lacked any pie charts or graphs, and was mostly unreadable from the audience. The text on the screen was so difficult to read that Auditor Dick Powell had to read the information from papers he held in his hand. 34-year veteran Commissioner, Ronald Williams, voiced concern about the County spending down its reserves.

Auditor Powell needed his notes to read what was projected.

Last night was not the first night that the audit presentation was unreadable from the audience, although this year may have been the worst of the past 3 or 4 years.

Sheriff Mark Hunter is known for one of the sharpest sets of eyes in the local region, having beaten other local Sheriffs for the Annie Oakley Annual Sharp Shooting Skeet Shot Award. Sheriff Hunter was in his usual seat in the rear of the auditorium. Your reporter asked if he could read the presentation. Sheriff Hunter smiled and shook his head no.

Richard Powell has been doing the County audit for about 40 years. He is also the County's financial advisor. For many years he worked hand-in-hand with the County's internal auditor and prepared the County budgets and line item budgets in his office.

Mr. Powell appeared to be auditing himself. The County 5 had no problem with that.

Columbia County may be Mr. Powell's biggest customer. It has been estimated that Mr. Powell bills the county around $100,000 a year.

For the last few years there have been complaints from some in the County that the audit is delivered at the last minute. The audit is used as a tool in budget preparation. The later the audit, the later the real county number crunching and reconciliations begin. This year was no exception.

Florida Statute

The Florida Statutes require that the county audit be provided to The 5 no later than nine months after the end of the fiscal year, which ends September 31. Mr. Powell's audit was due no later than June 30. It was delivered that afternoon.

Auditing Services RFP: We don't want prices.

Commissioner Phillips (left) and Chairman DePratter follow along.

This year, after about 40 years, the County put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) for audit services. An RFP should have included a cost to produce the audit. In big bold letters the RFP announced that no prices were to be included in the responses, not even the firm's hourly rates.

A state certified government purchasing agent, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, told the Observer, "This is absolutely wrong. If the county wanted to do it that way it should have put out a request for qualifications. After ranking the finalists they would have requested proposals. That proposal would have included prices."

Columbia County has never had a certified purchasing agent and does not believe it should have one.

The High Point: $40,000,000 in the bank

The high point of the presentation was Mr. Powell's presentation of the 2014 balance sheet. It showed the County has approximately $40,000,000 in reserves. The numbers on the screen were so small no one could see them and even if they could, it would have been impossible to follow Mr. Powell's presentation and match the numbers at the same time.

The only commissioner that had anything to say about the audit, other than Commissioner Williams, was Com. Nash. His remarks are about as intelligible as was the on screen PowerPoint. The County 5 refuse to wear microphones and the sound system is substandard. The sound clip was recorded ten feet from Commissioner Nash with top-of-the-line equipment.

Commissioner Nash asked for bigger fonts.

Last year Commissioner Nash asked for the audit to be delivered earlier. He did not mention the fonts, which were the same size as this year's.

34-Year Veteran Commissioner Ronald Williams

At the conclusion of the presentation, 34-year veteran Commissioner Ronald Williams voiced his concerns about the diminishing County reserves [as spoken]:

"You advised us if we followed your advice about reserves -- not spending reserves that Columbia County financial would keep goin’ this way (points up). If we tried to run the County out of reserves it would do this (points down). That was over 25 years ago... I am a little shaky, because we’re beginnin’ to do what you advised us not to do years and years ago: start diggin’ into our reserves to run this County. When reserves are gone we’ll be in the shape of a lot of other counties. We need to echo that again. We cannot run the County based on reserves."

Mr. Powell responded, "We have to balance recurring revenues with recurring expenditures. That’s the key."

The Columbia County budget countdown has begun.

Comments (to add a comment go here)

On July 19, 2015, RK of Lake City wrote:

The County 5 gave another poor example of a public meeting. No more than a handful of citizens attended this meeting. It is no wonder they got away with such a poor audit presentation. Even more sad is 'who cares'? Wonder why this is?  The place was packed one time in two years when The 5 gouged us with the fire assessment fee. Packed house in opposition and they stuck it to us anyhow. They just don't care what the people think, which is why attendance is so poor.

Suwannee Valley Transit Authority and Lake Shore Hospital Authority are even worse. They don't even want to be nice to people, especially that Hospital Authority.

Waste - God only knows how much money and then they act like they are entitled by some unknown phenomena. No wonder our country is 19 Trillion in debt. People Need To Speak Up!


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