South Jax recap: not looking at independent audit, facing DCEO deadline

By Gary Scott on December 22, 2015 at 7:13am

South Jacksonville trustees spent nearly three-and-a-half hours in closed session on Monday discussing, among other issues, the village audit.

After a short open portion of the meeting, trustees talked at length with multiple village attorneys and members of the Zumbahlen, Eyth, Surratt, Foote and Flynn accounting firm, which has handled the village’s audit for years.

Mike Woodyard of the Morgan County Watchdogs group and attorney Tyson Manker, both of whom have been fixtures at Village Hall since the revealing of the 2014 Illinois State Police investigation into theft allegations against former water clerk Linda Douglass, spent time in the closed session.

Based on publicly-available documents and the research he has done, Woodyard estimates about $186,000 is unaccounted for in the village water-sewer savings account in the time period focused on in the ISP investigation.

Mayor Steve Waltrip had previously stated there would be a meeting last night to discuss the idea of conducting an independent audit to find out what the correct figures are. While he says the village has concerns about the numbers Woodyard has put forth, there are no longer plans to run the independent audit.

“No, not yet, uh-uh. We didn’t want to go to the expense of all that right now. We’re just getting through the audit of last year, so we’re going to get that presented in January and try to get everything in order for the next fiscal year, which is going to be the end of April,” says Waltrip.

“The problem is we’re kind of trying to address issues from prior administration, and it just takes a lot of involvement, not only with the CPAs and the attorneys, but all involved to do this.”

In addition, Waltrip says he doesn’t see recouping that money as a “major priority” currently.

“It is something we’re going to look into. You don’t want to leave any money sitting on the table. But, we’re going to have to look at what that case would have been, and the ethics issue. We’ve got a different reflection on it now in the respect that there’s going to be a different state’s attorney replacing [Bobby] Bonjean,” he says.

“So, in light of that, it’s possible they may hear the case, and then move it forward. So, we’re going to try to look at that avenue and just see what comes out of that.”

The village might have another issue on its hands. During the open session, Waltrip mentioned a correspondence with the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

While he didn’t provide a ton of details, Waltrip told us after the meeting that DCEO is claiming the village isn’t producing deposits for grant funds, and that there’s “probably” a misuse of grant funds that the village can’t account for, that weren’t approved through DCEO.

Waltrip says whether or not this will impact taxpayers in the village remains to be seen.

“It could. I’m not sure how it’s going to play out. It’s too early to tell,” he says. “I don’t want to report something that’s not happened yet, which is probably wise.”

Back in September, criticism of use of a $250,000 grant from 2010 designated for the Hardin Avenue improvement project was raised.

The Hardin project was complete in April 2014, but there was still $25,000 left. Included in a 2013 grant modification request from the village to DCEO are requests for work on a gazebo and a water main fix.

Waltrip says DCEO has given the village until January 15th to address the issues the department is claiming.