I attended the March 7, 2023 Camden County Commission meeting at 10:00 a.m.
This meeting was held in the conference room of the Commission Building.
Commissioners Skelton and Gohagan were present.
At the beginning of the meeting, the Commission voted unanimously to appoint Jennifer Finley as the Camden County Health Director. Commissioner Skelton stated this satisfied the statutory requirements for the appointment of a Health Director and a County Health Officer.
The first agenda item was the Road and Bridge Bid Acceptance.
The budget for road overlay was $2.285 million. This did not include Business Park Road because Capital Materials was willing to split the cost for that road with the county.
Commissioner Gohagan asked County Auditor Laughlin if the rollover from last year’s budget would be included in the 2023 Camden County budget? Laughlin responded that it was part of the budget because they had estimated there would be a rollover. Gohagan complained that the budget information regarding the rollover was confusing because it seemed they kept receiving different answers from the auditors.
The overlay budget was approved unanimously with the provision that the Business Park Road overlay would be handled later.
Further discussion followed regarding the rollover funds between the County Auditor and the commissioners. The Auditor explained that the rollover funds could be used to pay expenditures in the event that CART revenue and other projected revenue sources were delayed. Treasurer Hicks added that rollover funds were “cash in hand” while the budget was based on anticipated revenue.
Commissioner Gohagan then questioned why the county was paying bills from last year with revenue from 2023? (Shouldn’t that be paid with rollover money?) According to the Auditor, Road and Bridge was billed very late in 2022 for their culverts.
The commissioners explained that the bid for Contracted Trucking is going to be re-worded and put out for bid again. They are also going to clarify that Workers Compensation insurance will be required.
There were then a whole bunch of bids for a bewildering variety of road construction materials and supplies. I’m sure reading about them would be almost as boring as listening to them, so I’ll spare you the experience. Commissioner Skelton said the county will publish a list of the accepted bids in the future. Thank you.
The second agenda item was Limited License Agreements – GIS.
These are agreements where companies pay Camden County money for the use of its GIS data for one year. The limited license agreements usually cost $500. Two companies wanted to pay for the data. Zoned Properties, Inc. wanted to use it for real estate analysis and development. JSI wanted the data to determine Broadband routes and private easements. The Assessor recommended approval of both agreements.
The Commission approved them both unanimously.
The third agenda item was the Accounting Policy & Procedures partial reinstatement.
At a previous meeting, the Commission voted to rescind the Accounting Policy so it could be reviewed and amended.
Commissioner Gohagan asked Auditor Laughlin if he had anything to say about this agenda item.
Laughlin asked the Commission to reinstate the Accounting Policy. Commissioner Gohagan asked Laughlin if he wanted to reinstate the entire policy? When Laughlin affirmed that he wanted the entire policy reinstated, Gohagan immediately refused. Laughlin preferred to reinstate the policy and revise it over the next few months.
Gohagan told Laughlin that, in his opinion, Camden County hadn’t been following the Accounting Policy. What was the point in having it?
Commissioner Gohagan was only willing to reinstate portions of the policy, specifically pages 26-49 which dealt with federal grant requirements.
Laughlin explained that the policy came from federal and state agencies in 2019. They forced the county to put the policy in place so the county would be eligible for grant funding. Laughlin told the County Attorney that if the county did not have this policy in place, Laughlin would have to report that to the higher agencies. The Accounting Policy was created from templates provided by other agencies.
Commissioner Gohagan told Laughlin that he had reported fraud to Laughlin many times in the past and the Auditor had done nothing about any of it.
Laughlin explained that when he came into his position, the Auditor’s office was a mess. He has been working hard to fix the issues in his office. Laughlin thanked the Commission for taking the responsibility for the IT department away from him.
Commissioner Gohagan again confronted the Auditor, saying he had reported purchasing irregularities to him and nothing had been done to investigate these issues. Laughlin offered to revisit some of these complaints and look into them.
Commissioner Gohagan was only willing to reinstate pages 19-20 (the Vehicle Policy) and pages 26-49 (the Grants Section) of the Accounting Policy.
County Attorney Green expressed concern about not having an Accounting Policy in effect for the county. Commissioners Skelton and Gohagan commented that there were statutory requirements, but the Accounting Policy was stricter than required by statute.
Commissioner Gohagan expressed his frustration over reinstating the Accounting Policy when it’s clear that nobody is following the policy. He described is as simply “veneer” to make the county look good instead of something useful to the government.
The Commission voted unanimously to reinstate pages 19-20 and 26-49 of the Accounting Policy.
The fourth agenda item was Show-Me Checkbook.
Show-Me Checkbook is an online transparency database that shows purchases of governmental bodies that participate in the program. It’s a voluntary program. There was a discussion about how much information the county would include in these purchase records.
Commissioner Gohagan and Skelton both thought it would be a good idea.
County Auditor Laughlin said it was possible for Camden County to provide the same information on the county’s own website.
After discussing this further, it appears that they are going to look into if this could be implemented, either through the Show-Me Checkbook or through the Camden County website.
During the Public Comment portion of the meeting, citizens questioned why Commissioner Gohagan had his approval authority removed in the county purchasing system? The Auditor admitted that one of his employees had used her authority in the system to remove Gohagan’s access, but he stated that employee no longer worked in his office.
The Auditor was asked why he had signed as the approving authority on several IT contracts that were over the $10,000 limit that requires Commission approval? Why had he signed them as a Commissioner?
The Sheriff and the Assessor both defended the Auditor, stating that he was given a great deal of authority in the past over the IT systems in Camden County by the two other commissioners (Hasty and Williams).
Overall, it was a pretty raucous meeting and Commissioner Skelton called for order.
The commissioners discussed what limited authority they had at their disposal to press for an investigation into these matters. Commissioner Skelton noted that there were no penalties described in the Accounting Policy for violations of the policy.
And that was that.
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