|INVESTIGATION OF MT. ZION PSD FINDS IMPROVEMENTS|
By David Hedges
Records were missing and there was little accountability in financial operations of the Mt. Zion Public Service District, according to an investigation into the PSD by the W.Va. Public Service Commission.
Blank checks were being signed by PSD members, water and sewer bills were not being collected and outstanding invoices had grown to more than $80,000.
Those were some of the findings of an investigation by the staff of the PSC presented at Monday's meeting of the Mt. Zion PSD.
The investigation was requested last year by the Calhoun County Commission, which was having trouble getting financial and other records from the PSD. The PSD even joined in the request for an investigation into its own practices.
This was before the PSD's secretary-treasurer for over 20 years, Wilma Mace, resigned in October 2009, citing health reasons.
PSC staff attorney Leslie J. Anderson said in her report that utilities analyst Troy Eggleton examined records from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009.
The report said Mace kept most of the records in her home. Anderson said many of the records were in "total disarray" and others could not be found at all.
"The (Mt Zion PSD) managed to regain possession of the computer which contained customer billing records, but little else," the report said.
After Mace's resignation, volunteers took on the job of collecting bills and paying invoices.
With their help, Eggleton said he was able to gather enough information to reconstruct some of the financial records.
Although the report did not address issues such as practices including selection of engineers that had been requested by the county commission and the PSD, the report did say matters were improving.
Eggleton said current volunteer staff members seemed "conscientious and capable."
He said current board members and volunteers are "continuing to move forward with resolving the issues which arose last fall."
PSD attorney Tom Whittier told PSD members the investigators did not find any criminal activity.
"They didn't find any sums of money were missing," Whittier said. "Things just weren't being dealt with the way they should."
PSD members were told earlier the PSC investigation was not the same as a forensic audit, which would costs tens of thousands of dollars.
Whittier said the PSC report said financial matters were being handled properly now.
"Things are running in an appropriate manner now," Whittier said. "That doesn't mean there is enough money to pay the bills."
PSD members Sharon Postalwait, Roscoe Gainer and Shirley Mace agreed to accept the preliminary report, which will be forwarded to the PSC for approval.
"I don't know what the final order will be," Whittier said, "but if it follows the staff recommendation, it will be pretty good."
PSD volunteer Norma Collins said accounts payable were in excess of $71,000. The PSD is pursuing an emergency rate increase, and is looking into a second rate increase to cover the higher cost of purchased water.
Near the end of the nearly 2-1/2 hour meeting, PSD members went into a closed session to review nine resumes submitted for the positions occupied by volunteers.
They decided to keep Norma Collins as accounts payable clerk and administrative assistant and Saundra Ballengee as accounts receivable clerk. Each will receive $600 per month.