Wood County officials discuss audit

PARKERSBURG – No mention of audit findings relating to Wood County Commissioner Wayne Dunn’s handling of the Smart Energy Solution program was made during a Monday meeting between state auditors and commissioners.

According to the written audit report, a bank account was opened without authorization of the county commission, checks issued from that account did not have the required three signatures, and the expenditures were not properly approved by the commission.

“A bank account was opened without the proper authorization of the Wood County Commission. Expenditures were made without the approval of the county commission, resulting in a higher risk of improper expenditures. The absence of the proper signatures creates an unnecessary lack of control over the transfer of funds and increases the possibility of a misuse of funds,” according to the audit report.

The auditors began the meeting Monday by announcing they would not take questions or comments from anyone other than the county commissioners.

Tiffany Hess, who performed the county’s audit, began by praising the county for improvements it has made in its accounting procedures over the years and diligence shown in addressing problems raised in the past. There followed a brief discussion about the handling of federal grants, changes needed in the tax office and at the Day Report Center.

“The county has a lot of grants and it’s easy to make a mistake,” Hess said. The audit report notes the commission and clerk need to implement a system for recording the federal grant expenditures and program names and numbers for reporting purposes.

The auditor said the tax office needs to consistently issue receipts in a timely manner.

“There is a greater risk of inaccuracies occurring when preparing the reconciliation of funds report and a greater risk that a misuse of funds collected could occur and not be detected in a timely fashion,” according to the report.

The county responded that a backup person has been trained to do the receipts to assure they are done every day when the money is collected.

Hess said the tax office should reconcile accounts and compare computer reports with checks issued to verify the proper person received the refund.

Any old outstanding checks should be turned over to the state treasurer as unclaimed property. According to the county’s response, there is no longer an unidentified balance being carried in the account; every month is reconciled to a zero balance and steps are being taken to turn over outstanding old check to the state treasurer.

The report noted the Day Report Center needs to follow county purchasing policies and changes have been made on those audit findings.

Following the discussion, Dunn noted the commissioners had other appointments waiting.

“It’s been interesting, thank you all. We are always worried about audits; your purpose is to help counties. It’s been a pleasure working with you; there is no animosity, and you are just wanting to get the job done,” Dunn said.

After the meeting with auditors, Dunn was asked by the Parkersburg News and Sentinel if he had any comment on the undiscussed audit findings relating to his handling of the Smart Energy program. Dunn said “there wasn’t that much to it and all that was noted had been taken care of.”

Dunn said Community Resources Inc. was initially handling the program, then it was turned over to the county and “apparently the bank account was not set up properly.”

Dunn said the program, which provided energy audits to middle-income residents, was not used as much as he had hoped.

“It was all kosher,” he said.

Dunn said he’s been “frustrated with the system.”

“This energy audit program had wonderful potential; there just was not enough interest from the public. I know it was not perfect in how it was administered, but we got a lot of heat over it, all the nit-picking things of what we had done. But it was a good program. I think the criticism went too far,” he said.

The county was awarded two $10,000 grants for the Smart Energy Program. The commissioners also authorized $48,000 from a closed out building bond fund account to be used in conjunction with the program.

The program provided energy audits to middle-income homeowners by partnering with the West Virginia University of Parkersburg’s Energy Assessment Program.

Prosecutor Jason Wharton, in July 2013, advised commissioners they needed to review practices relating to the program. He advised the program account should be placed under administration of the clerk and sheriff for payments and record keeping, after he learned Dunn was maintaining records at his home and office.

Questions were raised when Commissioner Blair Couch and Steve Gainer learned Dunn opened an account for the program without their consent or knowledge and that Dunn had written checks to himself through the program.

The account was opened as a business and nonprofit account, but the prosecutor noted at the time no such entity was registered with the West Virginia secretary of state. It was stated there were deposits with no source noted and no supporting documentation for checks written by Dunn to himself and his dental office apparently for reimbursement of expenses related to the program.

The county was directed by the auditor’s office to review statutes and comply with the provisions.

Wood County Clerk Mark Rhodes said that has been done.

No funds were drawn down from either grant for any expenditures related to the program; none of the $48,000 which was in the general county budget was used in conjunction with the program and the accounts have been closed out.

Rhodes said all documents related to the program have been turned over to his office and have been reviewed, and it appears all expenditures related to the program were from private sources. Documents indicate some funds came from Dunn’s private foundation.