Local CPA says he can’t complete county audit because of circuit clerk

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Missing documents from the Adams County Circuit Clerk’s office have delayed completion of the annual county audit, an accountant said Monday.

Dennis Switzer, a partner with Natchez CPA firm Switzer, Hopkins and Mange, said after meeting with Adams County supervisors that he had not received required documents from Circuit Clerk M.L. “Binkey”Vines’ office to complete the fiscal year end 2006 audit.

“Mr. Vines has journals that are prescribed by the state auditor,” Switzer said after the meeting. “Those are the basic records he keeps to record transactions dealing with receipts and disbursements, not his fee journal.”

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Switzer said his office asked Vines for those documents, called his civil, criminal and garnishment journals, in November three or four times.

“Finally, we hand-delivered a letter of request in December for those journals,” he said. “He still hasn’t delivered them.”

Switzer’s firm is contracted by the state to conduct an audit of the entire county. This year’s audit is due June 30, he said.

“(Vines) said he has just hired a CPA firm, and they’re now working on it,” Switzer said. “He said may have it for us in two weeks.”

If Switzer’s firm doesn’t have Vines’ information before June 30, they will have to put a qualifier at the beginning of the 2006 audit, saying it is incomplete. That could affect the county’s bond rating, Switzer said.

A bond rating is much like a credit rating, determining what kind of interest and loans the county can receive.

“The better your rating, the better the interest rate when you borrow money,” he said.

A lowered bond rating could potentially hurt the county’s chance of borrowing money in the future, he said.

Also at the meeting, some county supervisors wanted to hire a public accountant for Circuit Clerk M.L. “Binkey” Vines’ office.

Since Vines’ office appears to be suffering financially, Supervisor Henry Watts suggested at Monday’s board meeting that the county provide an accountant.

“Even though we haven’t been asked, we want to help,” Watts said. “It’s incumbent on us to help.”

Watts suggested a public accountant, not a certified public accountant because it would be too expensive. The accountant would “supervise all transactions until they can get back on their feet,” Watts said.

Vines pays an employee, William Kennon to keep the books for his office, County Administrator Cathy Walker said.

Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said the circuit clerk’s office was essentially self-sustaining. Grennell said he was not sure it was legal to do what Watts planned since Vines is another elected official.

Board attorney Bob Latham agreed.

“I think the circuit clerk’s office is not under this board,” Latham said. “I don’t think we have the authority to hire an accountant to help. There are a lot of laws I don’t know about, but I thought that office was autonomous.”

Watts pressed the issue.

“I’m not talking about a military-style takeover,” Watts said. “He obviously needs help. I haven’t spoken to him, but I believe he would accept help.”

Supervisor Sammy Cauthen disagreed.

“I’m sure the sheriff and the chancery clerk would probably like the board to pay to help them out, too,” Cauthen said.

Supervisor Thomas “Boo” Campbell saw some potential in Watts’ suggestion.

“If this has been happening time and time again, don’t you think he wouldn’t mind some help?” Campbell said.

The board voted to ask Latham to look into the legality of the suggestion. Latham said he would request an opinion on the matter from the state attorney general’s office.

After the board went into executive session, Vines was seen walking into the boardroom.

Vines told the board he had already hired a private CPA to help him, Grennell said after the meeting.

Watts said after the meeting he was still interested in the board hiring a public accountant for Vines’ office, “especially if it was someone directed from the board,” Watts said.

In other business:

4The board approved to allow the Southwest Mississippi Planning and Development District to submit applications for grants to the state to fund water and sewer for the private prison planned by CCA.

No local match will be required if those funds are granted, Grennell said.

Supervisor S.E. “Spanky” Felter was the only dissenting vote. After the meeting, Felter said he was against running sewer lines into the county because it resembled a step toward annexation. Natchez Water Works officials have said they have no plans to annex anything.

4The board voted to start facilitating a contract between International Paper and Rentech. The county would buy the IP site and sell it to Rentech.

Felter and Watts voted against the motion because they said they had not had a chance to thoroughly read the contracts.