City returns to old firm for help with audits

Published 11:38 am Thursday, May 26, 2011

With Mayor Paul Winfield dissenting, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted Wednesday to hire a local accounting firm to help in completing delinquent audits from 2008, 2009 and 2010.

“May and Company was the accounting firm that was helping the city for many, many years during the times that we were behind on our audits, and so because of that I cannot in good conscience hire them to consult to move our audits forward,” Winfield said after casting his vote and before leaving the meeting to pick up his son from school. “I believe there should have been some more discussions with other firms out there.”

Since Winfield took office in July 2008, the city has each year been behind on two years of audits. Audits for 2006 and 2007 were completed during his administration.

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May and Company, which served as the city’s independent auditors before the Halford Firm of Vicksburg was hired in 2008, will assist the city accounting department in gathering information, pulling invoices, creating spreadsheets and other support functions, city accountant Doug Whittington said.

“We need help moving our audits forward,” said Whittington, who heads an accounting department of three. “May and Company was the independent auditor before Ken Halford, so they are familiar with our books. I’m getting additional manpower for the audits.”

The pay rate was not decided Wednesday, but verbal discussions between Whittington and May and Company determined a range between $30,000 to $150,000 for an unspecified amount of time.

Audits for 2008 are underway, said Whittington, who was employed at May and Company for five years before becoming the city accountant in 2008, and are expected to be issued by June 30, also the deadline for the 2010 audits. Audits for 2009 and 2010 will begin as soon as 2008 is complete.

Separately, the board decided in closed session to move part-time city strategic planner Paul Rogers to a full-time position for the next six months in an effort to speed up the completion of the audits.

Rogers, who was the highest-paid city employee making $150,000 per year, retired from the full-time post in 2009 and has worked part-time since.

Delinquent audits are limiting the city’s ability to obtain funds through grants and bonds, Winfield said.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation is withholding the awarded $1.9 million in federal stimulus money to the Levee Street Depot project until the city catches up on audits.

The city board agreed in October to front funds to get that project going after ground-breaking was delayed twice.

Also, the city’s credit rating was placed on review in December by Moody’s Investors Service, a New York-based credit ratings provider of credit ratings and risk analysis, because of a lack of current financial and operating information.

The city’s rating of Aa3 is the fourth-highest investment grade.

In other business, the board approved renewal of a one-year contract with the Vicksburg Housing Authority to provide supplemental police patrol in four of the housing authority’s six subdivisions.

The renewed contract, set to run from June 1 to May 31, is for $144,296.04, or $39.25 per hour. That hourly rate increased from $29.95 per hour last year due to the rise in gas prices.

Supplemental police presence will be at Waltersville Estates, Urban Court, Rolling Acres and Valley Court during portions of the day and night hours.