CVB audit to start next month

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 29, 2016

NATCHEZ — State auditor’s office personnel are expected to conduct a detailed 2014-2015 audit of the Convention and Visitors Bureau next month.

Natchez Mayor Butch Brown said he has been communicating personally with the state auditor and has discussed details of what and who will be involved in the investigation.

The Natchez Board of Aldermen formally authorized earlier this month City Attorney Hyde Carby to request the state auditor look into the CVB’s finances.

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The measure comes as part of the board’s investigation into the bureau’s ongoing personnel issues.

“We are looking for someone who can make a mature assessment, an unbiased assessment, of what the issues are at the Convention and Visitors Bureau,” Brown said.

The state auditor’s office has not sent a written proposal for the audit, which was expected sometime last week, Brown said, but he has discussed details of the city’s request with the auditor.

“I have already arranged for the auditors,” Brown said last week. “We started going over this package, my request on Monday. It’s all arranged and set up.”

The Office of the State Auditor is expected to send two representatives to Natchez at the conclusion of the CVB’s 2014-2015 audit.

Deanne Tanksley of the Gillon Group, the Natchez CPA firm contracted to perform the CVB’s audit, said she aims to complete the CVB’s 2014-2015 audit before April 20, when she will begin the City of Natchez audit for the same year.

Brown said he asked the state auditors to plan to arrive after the conclusion of the CVB’s audit to speed along the state-level investigation.

The state auditors will go into more detail not only into the finances of the CVB, Brown said, but into the members of the Convention Promotion Commission, the number of meetings they held and their professional qualifications.

“They have members who live out of the city, and some that live in Natchez but work in other cities,” Brown said. “That has had an impact on quorums.”

Brown said he had also requested the auditors look into the purchase of Kevin Kirby’s city vehicle, a 2013 Lincoln MKX. Members of the Natchez Convention Promotion Commission contend the car was purchased and financed improperly.

Though Brown did not know how long the state auditor’s office would need to complete the investigation, he said he believes it would be done efficiently.

“These people know what they’re doing,” Brown said. “My goal is to get it cleaned up before I leave office.”

Brown said he had been talking to Mississippi State Auditor Stacey Pickering for several weeks prior to the board of aldermen’s official request for the audit.

Aldermen unanimously approved a $7,500 expense for the state-level audit in their March 22 meeting, which Brown did not attend because of a brief hospital stay.

Ward 3 Alderwoman Sarah Carter Smith said she was not pleased to learn Brown had approached the auditor’s office by himself before the board had discussed it as a group.

“Just individuals had talked about it,” Smith said. “Everyone has been talking about the options, it’s not his genius idea.”

Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard said the idea of requesting a state audit had been discussed between individuals, but he was not aware the mayor had already initiated the request before the March 22 meeting.

“I think the mayor is due his credit,” Dillard said. “It involves real people and their lives and their livelihood, and I’d rather be a little more cautious and see if the state can lend us some assistance in this.”

Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis said she thought Brown’s approaching the state auditor by himself was appropriate.

“There had to have been a contact with the auditors. How would you know (how much it would cost) if you had not had contact?” Arceneaux-Mathis said. “That needed to be explained to the board so board could approve a motion to let them come in.”

Arceneaux-Mathis said she is looking forward to the state’s assistance.

“We are in the process of trying to calm everybody down and find all the facts,” Arceneaux-Mathis said. “We will be aggressive in what we are trying to do so the public understands (the situation.)”