By LISA BICKNELL
CV&T News Editor
Responses to the state auditor’s special examination of the city of Irvine dominated most of Monday night’s Irvine city council meeting.
Irvine resident Jim Walters was first on the agenda and immediately addressed the council to say that many are incorrectly blaming the mayor for calling in the state auditor. Walters said that he was the one who called the auditor.
“We do things right, we do things legal,” he said.
He also said that it has become clear from the report who the chief administrator and chief financial officer of the city are.
When Walters began to direct comments to City Attorney Rodney Davis and again called him a liar, Mayor W.J. Noland called him down and told Walters he was out of line.
Walters said before he was seated, “Do what you know has to be done in a timely manner.”
Following a few items of new business listed on the agenda, former mayor Ernest Farmer asked to come forward to speak, saying that some things need to be clarified.
He said that he served as mayor for eight years and on the city council for two, and “we made sure our bills were paid.”
He pointed out some things he perceived as errors, or at least puzzling, in the state auditor’s findings, as he wondered where the $18,000 in fines and interest came from.
“I never remember signing checks for penalties and interest,” he said. “I doubt that.”
Mayor Noland responded that those numbers came from the IRS.
Farmer questioned the finding that said the city clerk opened and closed accounts without another signature. He said he doesn’t know of any accounts that did not require two signatures.
As for the state’s finding that 84 percent of transactions had missing or inaccurate documentation, Farmer said, “I can guarantee you one thing, whenever I signed a check, there was an invoice.”
He also said that he doesn’t remember one payroll check that ever bounced.
Regarding bonuses to employees, he said that it was something they did, that they thought it was right and that the city employees deserved it.
“Nobody ever told me it was illegal,” he said.
“They made us sound like a bunch of thieves,” he said, “and that’s a bunch of crap.”
Farmer said that he had lost many nights of sleep during his term as mayor, and he lost another after the auditor’s report was released last week.
He also questioned the need for spending $25,000 plus travel expenses on another audit.
Mayor Noland responded that when he came into office, the 2009 audit was not finished.
Farmer said that the city was behind on audits when he took office also, but the auditors convinced the council and himself that they would catch up. He went on to say that in his eight years in office, they borrowed $60,000 once early in his term, but after that, “our revenue stayed level and expenses went up,” but the bills were paid.
Around the table, Attorney Davis responded to the states finding that the City of Irvine Code of Ordinances has not been reviewed as required. He said that the Code of Ordinances was reviewed in 2012, and “obviously, it’s time to do it again, but I’m not going to do that unless someone tells me to.”
The Code is to be updated every five years, and Davis said it would be up to the Kentucky League of Cities how much it would cost the city, depending on how much has to be re-codified and republished.
He also explained that he has always been hired by the city through a personal service contract that is included in the city’s annual budget. He said that, according to the Kentucky League of Cities, a written contract is not required, but the auditors have said they need one. “In good faith and in trying to improve,” Davis said that the council and the mayor should consider it.
Davis addressed Farmer’s comments about the $18,000 in penalties and interest. He said that many of those have been “waived, abated and forgiven,” and that it should be reflected in the findings.
Councilman Tim Burkhart pointed out that the audit of fiscal year 2014 completed in June of 2015 reported 12 findings, and all but three had been resolved by the next year’s audit.
Councilman Tobo Bryant said that when Mayor Noland took office, he asked Noland to get the audits caught up.
He said he is ‘tickled to death’ that they are now caught up, but he expressed regrets “because of the money situation,” that the city will have to pay an additional $25,000 to $30,000 for the state audit.
Councilman Burkhart said the council can take it as a challenge to correct things and make things right.
“We would be wrong to say we don’t make mistakes,” he said, adding that they will proceed to correct findings.
“It’ll be a challenge, but it will almost be a fun thing to do,” he said.
Referring to the state audit, he said, “I do hope they can set us up on a payment plan, because we sure can’t pay it [now].
In other business, the council agreed to pay the list of current bills as presented, and City Clerk Robin Powell announced that Joy Puckett had applied for a privilege license to open a clinic with Dr. Goble at 101 River Drive.
The council gave approval for a $1 check to be written from the drug fund to prevent fees for inactivity.
Irvine Police Chief Brad Smith reported that the city’s new police cruiser is here, and Fire Chief Tony Murphy said the fire department had a “real good Christmas dinner with about 140 attending.”
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Irvine City Council is December 26, 2016 at 7 p.m. at Irvine City Hall.