Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.  An online newspaper

County News

County's Audit Presentation a Bust, Nash Has Q's - Elects to Ask Them Out of the Public Eye

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – According to long time veteran Columbia County Commissioner Ronald Williams, Thursday night's audit presentation was outside auditor Richard Powell's 36th annual audit for Columbia County. After years of abuse and disrespect by Columbia County's legendary County 5, the public pretty much stays away from most meetings of the County 5.

Thursday night's meeting, which included the audit presentation, played mainly to empty seat cushions as both the County and Mr. Powell didn't splice together even a rudimentary PowerPoint presentation so that the public could have followed along as Mr. Powell highlighted 25 pages of the over 200 page FY 2016 audit.

Read about last year's presentation here: Another 2d Rate Audit Presentation Fit Only for the Blind: General Fund Reserves Down $3.2 Million

Mr. Powell began his presentation, "It's a pleasure delivering the annual audit to the Board of County Commissioners...  A county audit is a separate audit of each constitutional officer and the board. It's a compilation of those separate audits into one report... This is the formal presentation... As you are aware, the County audit has such small numbers now that it is not feasible to project, so the board and the audience, there's a handout that basically contains the pages I'll discuss."

There wasn't any handout for the less than half a dozen members of the public that attended the meeting. Columbia County has a population of approximately 68,000.

Mr. Powell explained the audit, "It's the complete audit of the County... In an audit what you seek is a clean unmodified opinion that states that the financial statements are an accurate reflection of how the County stood at the end of the year..."

Buried in the backup material was this image of page 23 of the audit.                 Click to enlarge

Mr. Powell referred to page 23 of the audit, "It is the balance sheet of the governmental funds of the County. The County has two types of funds: governmental funds and enterprise funds."

The Governmental Funds Balance Sheet shows Columbia County with total assets of $51,520,660, an increase of just under $10 mil from the preceding year.

As in every yearly audit presentation, after three minutes, it was almost impossible to follow along.

Without an onscreen presentation or a handout, it was impossible.

Mr. Powell told The 5 that the reserves were adequate.

Had the County taken the time, a clear image could have been projected during the meeting.

Commissioner DePratter, "Do we have it on the screen?

Commissioner DePratter inquired of the County Manager, "Ben, do we have it on the screen or we just don't have it up there?"

County Manager Scott answered, "No, it's in your handouts."

Mr. DePratter exclaimed, "I don't understand, we've always had it on the screen."

County Manager Scott said, "We were told last year, 'Do not put that up there on the screen because you can't read it.'"

Mr. DePratter replied, "Well, you can read it on the new screen. I thought it should be up there."

The screen was blank during the audit presentation.

The school district administration building, where the County meets, recently installed tens of thousands of dollars of new projection equipment.

County Manager Scott said, "We intentionally did not put it up on the screen because we were told it was too small to read on the screen."

If one was sitting in the first few rows the presentation would have been readable.

The minutes of last year's audit presentation told a different story. The PowerPoint presentation was out of focus and blurry, making it unreadable.

Commissioner Nash made the staff clear up the PowerPoint and give the presentation again. This year, he was silent.

Back to Thursday's Meeting
Questions Anyone?

Mr. Powell continued flipping through the 26 pages of his report. It is not clear if anyone could follow along.

After twenty minutes Mr. Powell told The 5, "As always we appreciate working with the County and I'll try to answer any questions that the Board may have."

Commissioner Williams asked, "Questions from the Board?"

There was a brief pause.

Commissioner Williams continued, "You can always get with Dick [Powell] and Ben Scott with any concerns or questions."

Commissioner Nash gave the people another reason to stay away, "I do have a few, but I'll call you."

Mr. Powell volunteered, "That would be great."

Your reporter said he wanted to hear the questions.

Your reporter, also a resident, waited an hour to address the County 5

Your reporter said, "I was looking forward to the audit presentation tonight, because I thought this would be different from the ones we had in the past. I went back and looked at the minutes from July 21, 2016. It doesn't say that we're not going to do presentations. Mr. Nash asked [Assistant County Manager] Mr. Ward  to redo the presentation because nobody could see it. In your de minimis minutes, it said it was blurry."

Your reporter continued, "You have two MBAs sitting in the County towers. Somebody could at least make a slide presentation. And we have a County Auditor that makes over $100,000 to do the audit. One would think he could make his own presentation. Apparently, nobody can make a presentation."

Keeping the Public in the Dark – No Accident

Your reporter asked The 5, "The County Manager used to make an annual report. That used to be presented to the County. Where is that?"

"The County Manager was supposed to make a report on what the lobbyists were doing for us. We spend tens of thousands of dollars on lobbyists to do some unknown deed that they do. I have not seen a report from the County Manager on that."

"The County Manager has five bosses. If you guys [The 5] wanted the County Manager to make sure that the audit presentation was visible, he could do it. He's got an MBA. He was supposed to give an annual report and if you guys had any interest in having the residents in this County know firsthand what the finances were and what the annual report was, that's on your head, not on his head, because he's capable of doing it."

The 5 Ran for the Exit

After your reporter asked about the lack of a County motor pool, The 5 ran for the exits.

Comments  (to add a comment go here) 

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

Meeting Calendar
No need to be confused - Find links to agendas and where your participation is welcome.

Make a comment • click here •
All comments are displayed at the end of the article and are moderated.