Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sun Valley gets forensic audit

City: Public won’t see it for at least 2 weeks

Express Staff Writer

 A report on the results of a forensic audit commissioned by the city of Sun Valley in April was presented to Mayor Dewayne Briscoe and the City Council during an executive session Friday, Aug. 24.
    City of Sun Valley residents will have to wait at least two more weeks before learning the results of the forensic audit, as the city is waiting to release it to the public. A final copy of the report, including “more exhibits” and “other additions” was received by the city Tuesday morning, Briscoe said in an interview.
    “The forensic audit of the city is officially over as of this morning,” he said Tuesday.

    During an interview earlier this month, Briscoe called the audit “a thorough analysis of the receiving and expending of all city funds, where everything came from and where everything is going.
    “It’s to ascertain if any fraud has occurred,” he said.
    The long-awaited report is intended to tell the full story of the many incidents that have shrouded the city in mystery and notoriety since last fall.

    These incidents include alleged financial irregularities, a break-in at the fire station resulting in stolen documents and erased files, resignations by staff members, employees’ being placed on both paid and unpaid administrative leave, lawsuits filed against the city, and countersuits filed by the city.
    Briscoe said the report has not been released to the public because, according to attorney Clay Gill—who presented the report to Briscoe and the council on Friday—the city must first comply with laws protecting government employees. Moffatt Thomas, a Boise-based law firm with which Gill is associated, was hired by the city to oversee the audit so Briscoe’s administration would have no direct contact with the auditors.
    “The forensic auditor’s report to the city was received today, Aug. 24, by the mayor and the City Council,” Briscoe read from a written statement before the meeting was adjourned. “Because the report addresses specific conduct by current and past city employees and city representatives and upon the advice of our attorney, Clay Gill, the report will not be released until further proceedings are held.”
    Briscoe said the public will not get to see the report until the city employees who are mentioned in the report are given the chance to review the sections of the report in which they are mentioned and report any alleged inaccuracies.

“The forensic audit of the city
is officially over as of this morning.”
DeWayne Briscoe

    “I will schedule hearings so employees mentioned in the report can meet with me if they want,” Briscoe said. “After the appeal process, the authoritative body, in this case the mayor, can take any administrative actions that could be warranted by the report. This will be about a two- to three-week process.”
    After nearly five hours of closed discussions on Friday, the City Council reopened the meeting to the public and voted to spend up to $13,000 to pay for further legal work.
    As of Aug. 14, the city had spent just over $160,000 on the forensic audit, Interim Executive Assistant to the Mayor Virginia Egger stated in an email to the Express. That sum does not include the additional $13,000 earmarked for attorney Kirt Naylor’s services. The city is paying for the forensic audit with money from the budget’s Unassigned General Fund Balance. These are savings from previous years, Egger stated in the email.

    When some council members were asked after the Friday meeting if the city had gotten its money’s worth, they were tight-lipped.
    “I can’t say a thing,” council President Bob Youngman said. “Literally nothing.”
    The council members stuck with the official statement that Briscoe read before the meeting was adjourned.
    However, Briscoe revealed some more information during an interview Tuesday.
    He said the forensic audit report states that former City Administrator Sharon Hammer, whose contract with the city was terminated on Jan. 19, is mentioned in the report.
    “The report states that Eric B. Swartz, an attorney for Sharon Hammer, sent an email to the auditors on May 21 saying she refused to be interviewed by them,” Briscoe said. “The report further states that all other city employees and/or past employees agreed to be interviewed.”
    Fire Chief Jeff Carnes, his wife, Fire Department Administrative Assistant Tina Carnes, and their son, paid on-call firefighter Nick Carnes, remain on paid administrative leave. They have been on and off paid leave since late 2011.

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