Braman clerk Barrows resigns; takes passwords and keys amidst audit
An employee for the town of Braman has resigned without handing computer passwords and keys over to the town's board of trustees, leaving officials without access to important financial figures and raising questions over why the town's last municipal audit remains incomplete.
In a special meeting of the Braman Board of Trustees held Wednesday, April 24, the board voted unanimously to accept the resignation of Municipal Clerk Sandra Barrows. Another city employee, Utility Superintendent Damon Horton, has chosen to retire effective May 6. He is on paid vacation until that time.
According to Mayor Marv Sandbek, Barrows has not provided trustees with a password to the town's QuickBooks account or the key to the town's safe, though trustees have allegedly made multiple requests to obtain them since she resigned.
Horton has handed in all of his keys and passwords, and he has remained cooperative with trustees since announcing his retirement, Sandbek said.
Currently, trustees are unable to access financial records through QuickBooks, a computer program used by small businesses for accounting and payroll services. Until the Thursday meeting of the board, they were also unable to get into the city's bank accounts.
In the meeting, trustees voted to remove Barrows' access to all of the town's accounts and to close out any credit cards to which she had access. The board voted to add Sandbek as an authorized signer for the town's financial dealings.
On April 16, Barrows walked out of the board's regularly-scheduled meeting after Trustee James Lunn made a motion that newly-elected Trustee Marv Sandbek be named the town's mayor. The motion passed, giving Sandbek the city's top office.
AUDIT STILL INCOMPLETE
Even though missing computer passwords will have an impact on the board's ability to craft the 2019 - 2020 budget before the looming June 30 deadline, trustees are faced with another issue: an incomplete audit of the 2017 – 2018 fiscal year.
Sandbek announced at the meeting that the town's audit from the last fiscal year has not been completed. If the audit is not done by May 1, Braman could become ineligible for a community development block grant to repair water infrastructure. The incomplete audit also leaves the trustees without a financial picture of the town going into the new fiscal year.
“I guess the first thing we have to talk about is not being done with our 2017 – 2018 municipal audit,” Sandbek said at the meeting as the board began to discuss the upcoming budget deadline. “Truly, we have to forecast our next year's activity and have that done without audit information at this time.”
According to Sandbek, Kimberlye R. Mayer, who serves as the town's CPA, said that she “could not promise” that the audit would be completed by May 1 due to other previous commitments.
Residents at the meeting asked trustees why the audit had not been completed in 2018. According to Trustee James Lunn, it has “a lot to do with our city clerk not being able to get the correct information to our auditor, and then it has to do with records that have been kept in the office.”
Lunn was asked why he felt the clerk did not provide certain information to auditors. He replied: “I don't believe she didn't not provide certain information to auditors, I believe that she was not able to get all the required information out because of not having access to it within that office, or not having access to adjusted numbers.”
Lunn said the clerk could not access “adjusted numbers” because they “weren't figured yet.”
“It wasn't figured yet,” Lunn said. “For one thing, she was not an accountant, OK? … I take responsibility for some of this, too, because I should have been up here making sure that it was pushed through. That's basically all I have to say about that.”
Lunn did not say exactly when “yet” was.
Despite the 2017 – 2018 audit being incomplete, trustees will still have to craft the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. They will also have to start the audit of the 2018 – 2019 fiscal year when it ends June 30.
Sandbek said the town is “making new discoveries” related to the budget every day by looking through the records available at the town hall.
“And not all of it is good,” he said.
WHAT WERE THEY MAKING?
According to the town's proposed annual budget for the 2018 – 2019 fiscal year, the board of trustees appropriated $51,520 for the clerk's office. Barrows' salary was $40,000, but another $10,000 were set aside for “other services and charges,” according to the budget summary.
On March 26, Barrows was paid $500 for cleaning the town's office, according to a payment stub obtained by the Journal-Tribune. The stub said the money came from the “other services and charges” account.
Her work schedule, as posted at the town hall, totaled 25 hours per week.
In the 2015 – 2016 fiscal year, a total of $36,062 were appropriated for the clerk's office, according to the budget summary.
Also in the 2018 – 2019 fiscal year, $46,000 were set aside for personnel expenses in the utility department. A total of $11,000 were set aside for “other services and charges,” according to the budget summary. Horton was the only employee in the utility department.
In the 2015 – 2016 fiscal year, personnel expenses amounted to $38,243, while other services and charges totaled $11,591.
FILLING THE VOID
The board's next step will be to hire a permanent town clerk and a permanent maintenance technician. As approved by the board Thursday, legal advertisements for the job openings will be printed in area newspapers.
Until permanent employees are brought on, the town clerk's office is being staffed by a combination of part-time and volunteer workers. In the Thursday meeting, the board voted to temporarily hire Wynetta Schaffer to staff the city office and collect utility payments. According to Sandbek, Schaffer will work between 12 and 15 hours per week at the town hall, where she was formerly employed in an administrative capacity. Sandbek said that Schaffer's hiring “gets the city through” while a new worker is sought.
The board also hired Trudy Rowe to mow and maintain city parks. Rowe is a local mowing contractor.
The board voted Thursday to “reset” all of the locks on town-owned property and establish a key control system.
Trustees said they will get a consultant from The Lock Shop in Blackwell to determine which locks and keys the city will need to replace and what the overhaul will cost.
The Lock Shop is owned by Blackwell City Councilman Jon Webb.
BOARD TO DISCUSS APPOINTMENT OF SPECIAL COUNSEL
The town board has called for another special meeting to be held tonight at 7:00 p.m. at the Braman Town Hall, located at 302 Broadway Avenue. According to the posted agenda, the board will discuss audit requirements and convene in executive session to discuss the possible appointment of special legal counsel for the board. A complete agenda schedule is posted on the main entry door to the building.
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