By jeanne starmack
The mayor said he will begin the search for a new finance director as the city learned it is nowhere near able to ask for release from fiscal emergency.
At a meeting Monday of a state commission that oversees the city while it is in fiscal emergency, Mayor Bill VanSuch requested consideration for release from state oversight.
Sharon Hanrahan, commission chairwoman, said there are still too many accounting and bookkeeping deficiencies, documented by the state auditor’s office, that have gone uncorrected.
VanSuch said the city has made progress correcting the deficiencies, and Hanrahan agreed. But, she said, there is still too much work to do. She said the earliest the city would be ready to ask for release is January 2013.
The worst problem, she said, is the fact the city is so far behind in reconciling monthly bank statements with its records.
Finance Director Sherman Miles has been unable to do the reconciliations. Miles has been unable for months to get past reconciling the statements for April 2010.
“We don’t know the cash balance of the city,” Hanrahan said.
VanSuch and Miles gave different versions of why Miles and the finance department have been unable to do the reconciliations, and Hanrahan reminded Miles that he told her and an attorney from the Ohio Attorney General’s office in October that he would have all the 2010 statements reconciled by Monday’s meeting.
“I said with the staff’s help, and that’s not help I’m receiving,” Miles replied. He told The Vindicator later that two staff members refused to help him do the reconciliations, with one “flat out” refusing and the other saying it would interfere with other job duties.
Campbell resident Chris Grachinin, who sits on the commission, asked VanSuch why he didn’t help Miles gain the cooperation he needs from his employees.
“It would seem you’d give him the help he needs if you want out of fiscal emergency,” she said. “Why can’t they sit down and help him?”
But VanSuch painted a different picture of the interpersonal dynamics in the finance department.
“The fact of the matter is our finance director doesn’t get along with anybody, and I can’t force them,” he said, adding that there is no union involved.
“Get a mediator in there with him,” Grachinin said. “You’ve got to get this done.”
VanSuch told The Vindicator after the meeting that “Campbell will be looking for a new finance director.” He said he intends to put an ad in a general circulation newspaper this week. He can only recommend a finance director to the city council, which has the final say over who is hired. But, he said, he believes he will have council’s support.
Miles said he was not surprised to hear VanSuch was seeking to replace him. He said he thought he might be replaced when former council president Juanita Rich lost her bid for re-election in the November election, because the two of them were closely associated politically.
He also said he wonders if the next finance director will be subjected to the same problems he has — “minimal assistance, with no outside help and political warfare,” he said.
The problems with the reconciliations have been ongoing, with Miles saying earlier this year that he did not know how to do them. The state auditor’s office did the reconciliations for January and February 2010. Miles said in June that the auditor’s office presented “very thorough paperwork,” but he was not taught how to do the reconciliations.
Timothy Lintner, a state financial supervisor from the auditor’s office, said at Monday’s meeting that “we sat with [Miles] on two separate occasions and went over paperwork in detail.”
With a consultant’s help, which Miles paid for out of his own pocket, he reconciled the March 2010 statements this summer. He said then the consultant helped him learn the process.
He said, though, that he is having difficulty now because he doesn’t have enough help.
Miles said city Administrator Jack Dill authorized help from a private accountant, with up to $1,000 to pay her. He said she is within $700 of reconciling April 2010, down from a $7,000 gap last month.
Hanrahan questioned whether the city wouldn’t be better off asking for help from the state auditor’s office, because those representatives are familiar with public, fund-based accounting. Auditors’ representatives at the meeting calculated that it would cost the city $17,000 for help getting current with the reconciliations.
Hanrahan said that she does not care how the city accomplishes the reconciliations, “but it has to be done.”
Hanrahan told the paper after the meeting that the attorney general can ask the court to force the city to do the reconciliations, but she would rather not do that. “How can you force someone to do something they can’t do?” she said. “But, how can you be a finance director and not know how to do it?”
Hanrahan also told the city it has to amend its financial recovery plan by Feb. 6 to include a schedule of when it will correct the outstanding bookkeeping and accounting deficiencies. She also said the commission will now be meeting monthly instead of quarterly.