A newly-released 2015 audit for the Knox County Fiscal Court shows improvement, while echoing concerns of the previous year’s findings.
Just as with the previous year, the 2015 audit found that, although there were no instances of misuse of money, there were several instances of improper procedure.
Of the auditor’s comments, the most notable dealt with major expenditures relating to the purchase of two Mack trucks, which were not bid out, and also ran over budget nearly $5,000 from the amount approved by the Fiscal Court.
In a phone interview with Knox County Judge-Executive J.M. Hall, The Mountain Advocate addressed some of the State Auditor Mike Harmon’s concerns with the issue of the Mack truck expenditure. The approved claim of $269,804 was $4,951 more than the original line item cost of $264,853. According to Hall, the difference in price was because the estimate for the trucks was based on the previous year’s pricing.
The Mack truck purchase was also raised in comments regarding following proper bid laws and regulations.
The Fiscal Court has contracted with a company (Worldwide Equipment) to purchase and sell back Mack trucks for years. “Each year we vote to continue the Mack truck program, and we’ve never been written up before,” said Hall. Since being written up for not following proper bidding procedures, the Knox County Fiscal Court will now advertise bids for the trucks, as it has for all other county vehicles going forward.
Another big purchase to draw attention from the state auditor was the purchase of new election machines for $110,000. The election machines were bid out, according to Hall. “We took quotes on those. We got a grant and the state actually paid for the machines.”
“Joe Bolton with Kentuckiana Election Service came in and presented a program on the machines to the fiscal court,” said Hall. “The Fiscal Court voted to replace our old machines with the new machines, because we around $120,000 in grant money from the state, and we were going to lose it if we didn’t use it. We asked for quotes on the machines, and Bolton gave us those quotes. Problem was, he quoted from one company, and sold from another he represents. When we wrote the check, it was to the other company he represented, so it looked like we didn’t bid it, but we did.”
Another concern from the state auditor was the equal coverage of insurance for county employees and county elected officials. According to the auditor’s report, the county covers insurance premiums for all county employees, but only covers family insurance policies for elected officials. “Our county attorney says we aren’t the same. The state has already said that elected officials are not county employees,” said Hall. “We don’t get sick days or vacation days, and the salary stays the same between elections.”
Any changes going forward would have to be approved to change the County Administrative Code, and that wouldn’t take effect until January 1, 2019, the beginning of the next elected term.
The audit also touched on the issue of logging gravel inventory with the county highway department. The auditor’s concern was that there wasn’t a log of incoming gravel to the department, so there was no idea how much gravel was supposed to be in inventory. In correcting this issue, Hall’s comment was “The Fiscal Court has now assigned an employee to monitor and log all incoming and outgoing materials including gravel.”
Overall, it is evident that significant changes were made by the Fiscal Court from 2014 to 2015 to correct procedural issues regarding purchases and bidding. In comparison, there were 11 comments in the 2014 audit, compared to 2015’s six comments, the last of which concerned commissary issues with the Knox County Detention Center.