Around 60 concerned citizens gathered in the Mannsville Community Room Monday night in anticipation of the town trustees’ action regarding the yearly financial audit as required by Oklahoma Law.
Citizen frustration follows an audit released by the Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector last week, which looked at the town’s finances spanning from July 11, 2011 through Dec. 31, 2015. The SA&I found several alleged discrepancies that stemmed from financial documents and receipts the town allegedly couldn’t produce.
The town trustees voted 2-1 to decline  hiring a CPA to audit the previous year’s financials. Garry Glidewell, who helped initiate the state audit by gathering signatures on a petition from the town’s citizens, was the only town trustee who voted in favor of hiring a CPA to audit the 2016-17 financials.
“I talked to the state auditors and they said the only penalty (for not conducting a yearly audit) is we don’t get our gasoline excise tax,” said Shonda Barnes, Mannsville town treasurer.
The town attorney nodded in agreement.
According to Oklahoma Title 11 Statutes for cities and towns, “the governing body of each municipality with an income of $25,000 or more to its general fund during a fiscal year…” shall conduct an audit, “within 30 days of the close of each fiscal year. Copies shall be filed with the State Auditor and Inspector within six months after the close of the fiscal year.”
“It doesn’t matter what the consequences say, it matters what the law says, which is that we need to do an audit every year,” Glidewell said. “Not having a yearly audit is a violation of the law. The audit done by the State Auditor and Inspector ended with the 2015 financials, but there were still questionable actions taking place in 2016-17."
Tension between community members was high throughout the meeting, and at times it was hard to hear the trustees over the shouting of the town’s citizens. Citizen frustration stems from the SA&I audit released last week. The audit, which began in 2014, alleges that town officials misappropriated funds in utility collections/ payments, a possible misuse of grant funds, possible discrepancies in hiring practices, possible destruction of records, and inconsistencies with the general and petty cash expenditures.
Former State Representative Fred Stanley, who said he has been in many of the meetings between the town officials and the auditors, said SA&I only see in black and white, but that things aren’t always so clear. Stanley alleges that a former employee, who was allegedly giving herself and her family credits towards their water bill, was under investigation. He said once the employee learned of the investigation, she left town and took “70-80 percent of the financial records with her.”
“The petty cash and financials disappeared,” Stanley said. “Law enforcement didn’t investigate and all of our records, financials and minutes disappeared. How can you (the state) do an audit if all the financials are missing? The SA&I audit doesn’t say the money is missing, it says it’s unaccounted for because it’s all in those stolen records.”
Stanley went on to say that much of the funds the audit says were misappropriated were used to feed the Department of Corrections inmates that were used to do much of the labor around town. He said that the law states the inmates can only have a sack lunch, but legislators didn’t account for the fact that sometimes the DOC workers might be out late, and would be unable to return to the jail in time to be fed. He said for that reason they would provide them with food. However,  according to the SA&I’s audit, questions were presented about the documentation of meal expenses and the hours logged while the inmates were working for the town.
“Let us have the chance to explain why they did the things they did, like the purchasing of the food,” Stanley said. “When all you take is the auditor’s facts, and don’t fill in the blanks, it blanket statements it’s (that the actions are) against the law.”
But, Glidewell said he’s not as worried about the financials so much as the general operation of the town. He has had the yearly audit put on the last three town agendas.
“The more I got involved, the more questions I had,” Glidewell said. “The purchase orders were not following the correct procedures, you should be able to ask for documents under the Freedom of Information Act, but it doesn’t work like that here.”
“It’s a big mess and my main goal is to get this town back working for the people,” he added. “My sole goal is to represent the people of this town. Evil will prevail when good people do nothing. I’ve never worried about the outcome of all of this because the truth is on our side.”