City books need to be corrected now

Published 12:21 am Wednesday, December 17, 2014

We hope the Natchez Board of Aldermen takes a lesson from this year’s audit and put together a plan to remedy the city’s bookkeeping mess.

The city’s audit for fiscal year 2012-13 was due on June 30. However, city officials and the auditor say problems with reconciling the city’s books have delayed the completion of the audit. The challenge is on the city, not the independent auditor, to fix.

Having shoddy accounting practices and a late audit can have serious consequences, beyond the obvious. When the county’s 2012-13 audit was late, federal funds due county government were withheld until the county was back in compliance.

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Natchez Mayor Butch Brown said Monday the city has not been notified about any such action directed toward the city. But it’s not something about which Natchez employees or residents should have to be concerned.

Aldermen met in executive session on Monday afternoon with City Attorney Hyde Carby and members of the clerk’s office to discuss how the city’s bookkeeping got into such dire straits. The meeting was closed to the public, Carby said, because the job performance of individual employees was discussed.

Natchez City Clerk Donny Holloway, who was elected to his position, has direct responsibility for the city’s bookkeeping. The recent action by city leaders to turn the city clerk position into one that is appointed by the mayor and board of aldermen, rather than elected, is a step in the right direction, but will fix the problem in the future. The current fiscal mess needs immediate attention.

Having the city’s bookkeeping in good order is a reasonable expectation, and ultimately is the responsibility of our elected city leaders.

As taxpayers, we have every right to expect a fair accounting of city expenditures. Fiscal stewardship should be a top priority for the city.