Patterson failed to comply with audit
By PRESTON GILL
PATTERSON — Eight months after being told in an audit it was violating state law, the City of Patterson has yet to publish the minutes of its public meetings in the official journal, The Daily Review.
The audit, released in January and prepared by Kolder, Champagne, Slaven & Company said the “City had not made written minutes for its public meetings available to the public. … Louisiana Revised Statute 42:20, states that all public bodies shall keep written minutes of all open meetings. It further states that the minutes shall … be published in the public body’s official journal.”
The city’s response to the finding was: “The City’s management is aware of the requirement to make minutes publicly available. The City Clerk ... is working to develop the official minutes for those meetings and will publish the minutes upon completion.”
The audit dealt with Fiscal Year 2012 that ended June 30, 2012.
Billing records of The Morgan City Daily Review show no minutes have been published since January 2011, the month Mayor Rodney Grogan was inaugurated.
During a Friday interview in his office, Grogan asked his secretary to bring him a copy of the audit report. He shook his head as he read the pages of the findings.
“This is the first time I am aware of this,” Grogan said, referring to the failure to have the minutes published. “I didn’t know this was in here,” Grogan said of the city’s response. He said he will have the city in compliance soon.
“If the minutes have been transcribed then they will be presented to be published,” Grogan said. “If they are not transcribed yet, then they will be transcribed.”
Grogan, who is in his third year as mayor, said he has followed the “protocol of his predecessors” in how things are done administratively and as he sees weaknesses or problems he attempts to make corrections.
“There are practices that have to be corrected, but we don’t know these weaknesses until they are identified,” Grogan said.
The mayor said the auditor consults with City Clerk Pam Washington and other staff members when compiling the audit and not with him. The city response must have been made by Washington; in any case, he had not seen the city’s response, he said. In his four years as a councilman and now in his third year as a mayor, he had not seen a hard copy of an audit, he said.
Washington said she has served under several mayors in her more than 30 years with the city. The mayors typically deferred to her knowledge of how the city operates when it comes to meeting with the auditor, she said.
Auditors’ findings usually deal with some aspect of her work so she is the one that discusses the remedy with the auditor and takes corrective action, she said.
Regarding the typical audit process in Patterson, Washington said she would talk with the mayors and tell them what she would say to the auditor and “they would tell me to take care of it.”
She said she did not have a specific recollection of discussing the 2012 audit and the city’s response with Grogan.
“Whether or not I sat down and really explained it the way I should, I really can’t remember,” Washington said.
“I have been made aware of the problem,” Washington said. “I will take corrective measures.”
Alan Taylor, a certified public accountant with Kolder, Champagne, Slaven & Company, has done the city audits for many years. The city clerk prepares the city’s response to findings and he includes those in the final audit report, which he delivers to the city for dissemination, he said.
Taylor said he is willing to make a formal presentation, which he has done before. The city did not request or receive a formal presentation and discussion of the 2012 audit, he said.
“I do not remember when the city quit asking for the presentation of the report,” he said.
The city charter says the “audit shall be submitted to the council at one of its regularly scheduled meetings” and a summary “shall be published … in the official journal within 20 days of its submission to the council.”
The summary has not been published.
On Monday, Sept. 9, The Daily Review requested a copy of the minutes of the May through August City Council meetings. Minutes from the May and June meetings were produced, but the other minutes were said to be on the city clerk’s computer, which was password protected.
A public records request was delivered to Grogan on Friday requesting a copy of meeting minutes since February 2011 along with documents on three other subjects. Grogan said those records will be provided.
Grogan said he is working on getting public records reliably available to the public for viewing. Grogan said he is a firm believer in open government.
“When I came into office I wanted the meetings televised. ... I want all of this stuff there for people to be able to see everything we are doing,” Grogan said.
Former mayor Mike Accardo said no one knows as much about how the city works as Washington.
“When there is something wrong (in an audit), Pam would call me and we would talk about it,” Accardo said of his term as mayor. While the clerk may be delegated the work of developing and writing a response, the final responsibility lies with the mayor, he said. “He should be a part of any discussions of corrections,” Accardo said of Grogan or any mayor.
Council members Larry Mendoza, Sandra Turner, John Rentrop and Joe Russo each said they were not aware of the finding or of the city’s continued violation. Councilman Charles Sawyer could not be reached and did not return a telephone message.
The four council members reached voiced confidence the mayor would correct any issues that need to be addressed if he said he would do so.
Kolder, Champagne, Slaven & Company auditor findings for Fiscal Year 2012
—“City had not made written minutes for its public meetings available to the public … Louisiana Revised Statute 42:20, states that all public bodies shall keep written minutes of all open meetings. It further states that the minutes … shall be available within a reasonable time after the meeting and published in the … official journal.”
—The city’s administration did not present the annual financial report to the council within the required time frame set forth by the City’s Home Rule Charter.
—The city’s management did not submit its proposed annual operating budget to the council within the time frame set forth by the charter.
—Audit adjustments were proposed to correct misstatements that were material to the city’s financial statements.
The Morgan City Daily Review has made a public records request for the following:
—Minutes of public meetings of the Patterson City Council from February 2011 to August 2013.
—Monthly financial statements from January 2012 to June 2013 per Charter 3-05(5).
— Records or financial reports, from Patterson Community Fair in 2012 and 2013 and how that money was distributed.
—Mileage, hotel, meal or other travel reimbursements submitted by city employees from January 2012 to June 2013.