WHY COMM. PENNAMON WANTS EMS AUDITED

August 30, 2015

Debria Murphy headshot

Debria Murphy EMS billing clerk

 

 

Comm. Pennamon questioned the auditor about EMS and why more details were not included in the FY14 audit. He seemed to be concerned about the increase in accounts receivable.

 

He should be concerned about a lot more than that….changes to Patient Care Reports, Medicare/Medicaid billings, payroll errors, violations of personnel policy, and violations of HIPPA regulations.

BACKGROUND

In March 2014, Debria Murphy was hired by Karen Degges to be the “EMS auditor”. Money wasn’t coming in to EMS as Ms. Degges expected; however, Debria Murphy was not an auditor and had never been an auditor. This was only a ploy to fire Kathy Skinner (an 11 year employee) and to hire Debria Murphy who had worked with James Gregory for 12 years in Putnam County.

In September 2013, Putnam County had to pay back $9617.04 to Medicaid/Medicare for EMS billing and documentation errors while Debria Murphy was the EMS billing clerk. Ms. Murphy resigned from Putnam County 1/24/14. She didn’t do well as the EMS billing clerk in Putnam County according to their audit:

  • 74% of all the billing was over 150 days old which amounted to $1,487,477 and the total Receivables were $1,937,000.
  • Contractual adjustments (insurance, Medicare and Medicaid) were not written off properly
  • Cash collections were not applied to the outstanding balances, and
  • Remitting to third-party payors was not done in a timely manner.

See audit page here.

All these things have been brought to the attention of the Jasper County BOC previously—when Debria Murphy as “auditor” had Ms. Skinner fired by saying she wasn’t doing her job.

So where does Jasper County stand as of the FY14 audit? Let’s look at the comparisons:

  • EMS Calls                      FY13    1,480               FY14 1,423
  • Trucks in service                    2                               3
  • Charges for service       FY13 $798,000           FY14 $663,000
  • EMS Receivables           FY13    $67,827           FY14   $88,076
  • Receivables as a % of charges       9.0%                           13.3%

                           Figures obtained from Jasper County audit

During Ms. Skinner’s termination hearing, the citizens and BOC were all told more money would be coming in because Ms. Murphy knew how to bill “correctly”.

How does Ms. Murphy bill?

EMS personnel turn in PCR’s or Patient Care Reports to show what all was done by the EMS crew. There have been complaints that Ms. Murphy has asked EMT/Paramedics to change the PCR’s so she could bill differently. If this is happening, it is insurance fraud!

Ms. Murphy also told Mike Benton, and he repeated it during a finance presentation, that there was trouble “all over the state” with Medicare/Medicaid billing and that’s why income wasn’t coming in, but all that would be soon corrected. We cannot verify if this is true or just an excuse.

 HIPPA Violations can result in heavy fines

“Auditor” Debria Murphy was not a county employee, and was not a real auditor, when she was allowed by the County Manager, Karen Degges, to go through personal medical files and even take them out of the office, violating HIPPA regulationsWhere the EMS billing office is located since Ms. Murphy took over also violates HIPPA regulations because people can and do go in and out of that office. Ms. Skinner warned both Ms. Degges and Ms. Murphy about these violations to no avail.

Violation of personnel policy

Ms. Murphy holds 2 jobs with the county and gets paid overtime for anything over 40 hours. She works as an EMT and sets her own schedule. She also works as the billing clerk as part of the new finance department set up by Karen Degges. No other county employee is allowed to hold two jobs, and despite this being brought up to the BOC more than once, nothing has changed. (They didn’t listen to complaints about Sherry Braley either.)

Ms. Murphy is in charge of turning in EMS payroll information. In months past she made several errors on paychecks. To make sure no one found out, she told EMS personnel affected she would just write them a check out of her personal account for the difference. At least one EMT took her up on this offer. Another told her “no way” and even reported this to Comm. Trammell; however, nothing was done about it, and it took several pay periods before that EMT was paid for the time missed by Debria Murphy.

Cash and other collections need to be audited—by a real auditor—and so do the submissions to Medicare and Medicaid.

With 2 instances of theft of county monies already caught and employees arrested, the BOC needs to step up and take notice of what is going on in EMS. Collections are down, receivables are up, overtime is soaring, morale is down.

Comm. Pennamon is right; EMS needs to be audited in more detail and so does any other department with cash going in and out, such as Landfill and Recreation. Controls have been lax and despite complaints and facts being presented to the BOC, nothing is done to check, review, and set higher standards and controls.

Debria Murphy’s handling of her job should be under strong scrutiny—

  • Higher receivables and lower collections means less money for the county
  • HIPPA violations
  • Violation of personnel policies
  • Possible fraud if changes to PCR’s submitted by EMT’s are made
  • Payroll errors being covered up

 

Here is a copy of the email (letter) written to the BOC in April 2014 by Kathy Skinner, outlining both possible HIPPA violations and billing fraud by Debria Murphy.

Click here to read letter.

Commissioners, don’t say you didn’t know or had no way of knowing when things blow up. You have been told more than once and by more than just TWG. Do something—vote to have an immediate audit of EMS collection and billing procedures, and then expand it to all cash collection areas in the county.

TWG

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Posted in County, EMS | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

IT’S ABOUT TIME THE CITIZENS GOT TO KNOW MORE OF THE STORY ABOUT “ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT” DEALS

August 28, 2015

Soon, all the deals made by economic development authorities all over the state and country, will have a little sunshine on them, and the taxpayers that end up paying for those deals will have a better idea of how much the giveaways by unelected boards actually cost.

A new rule by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) will require cities, counties, and states for the first time to disclose tax abatement agreements, which will reveal the loss of revenue from corporate tax breaks for economic development projects.

Notice this says “the loss of revenue” from the tax breaks. All we ever hear is how much money is going to be brought in…..after 10 years or so.

Jasper County is involved in three recent tax incentive deals—Norton, Baxter in the Four County “Stanton Springs Park”—now known as Baxalta, and the Wood Flooring Plant (Thompson & Thwaite).

Getting the information on what exactly Jasper County gave away in these deals, was difficult at best. With the Wood Flooring Plant, the judge in the bond hearing had to tell the DAJC bond attorney to make sure we got the information that should have been available at the public hearing. They received a 10 year tax abatement.

The deal with Norton was different. There were both state and local incentives and none of them were revealed until long after the deal was finalized. We don’t remember The Monticello News ever reporting anything about the $6,000,000 in incentives that Norton received. (See details here)

Norton.Dyer.Bullard.SJordan.Groundbreaking

Norton Ground Breaking with Jasper County Economic Development members and Chamber of Commerce members

Baxter received at least $100M in incentives from the 4 counties involved and the State of Georgia. The Covington News reported many of these incentives over a period of weeks as more and more details emerged. Again, it is very hard for the locals bearing the tax burden to find out much of anything.

TWG has repeatedly asked the question—If these economic development deals are so great, why can’t we know about them and how much they actually cost? Why are they shrouded in secrecy long after they are approved? We all know that answer, and this new accounting rule, may shed a little more light on things for us—but always AFTER THE FACT so the citizens can never ask questions or put up a fight.

“This new guidance will result in people who use governmental financial statements having access to essential information about the tax abatements governments enter into,” Vaudt said. “Not only will this mean that they’ll have access to information that will allow them to better assess a government’s financial health, but it will also make the impact of these agreements much more apparent.”

You can read the entire article at this link:

 

TWG

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Posted in Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development, Open Government, Property taxes | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

WHY ARE THE TAXPAYERS PAYING LEGAL BILLS FOR CELL TOWER WORK WHEN THE CONSULTANT WAS PAID $55,000+ FOR THE DEAL?

August 26, 2015

“David Dyer has inside information since he worked for AT&T.”—Gene Trammell at the 1/12/15 BOC meeting

CellTower

David Dyer has played several roles in getting the 8 new cell towers in Jasper County approved, and was paid quite well for it. However, all we have is ugly towers with a red light on top and no service.

First, he played the economic development role—we must have these towers to bring economic development and growth the Jasper County. This is how most things are pushed on the county nowadays—the words “economic development” are supposed to mean lower taxes. David Dyer is the Executive Director of the Development Authority of Jasper County (DAJC).

Second, Mr. Dyer played the consultant role between Jasper County and AT&T via a company he is involved in– The Center for Municipal Solutions, which was paid over $55,000 in 2014 for Mr. Dyer’s consulting work on the 8 cell towers. On 11/18/13 David Dyer recommended approval on all 8 proposed cell towers, even though both Federal and State required paper work was missing on all eight towers, as was the tower removal bond.

Third, David Dyer as the cell tower consultant informed the BOC on January 12, 2015 that AT&T was out of compliance with what was agreed upon and a letter should be written. Of course, he wanted the county attorney to write the letter at taxpayers’ expense, even though he was the paid consultant.

On 1/20/15, David Dyer and Comm. Gene Trammell met in Covington in Jim Alexander’s (the commissioners’ attorney) office. Since this meeting was out of the county and out of the eye of the public, we don’t know if anyone from AT&T was present. The cost to the taxpayers for this little meeting was $490, plus another $140 for a letter written to AT&T for non-compliance. You can see a copy of Alexander’s entire bill here, including the AT&T work.   http://www.taxdogs.com/082515ATT.AlexRoyBill.pdf

We must question why David Dyer and The Center for Municipal Solutions that received $55,000 for consulting work did not pay the legal fees associated with this mess.

At the 3/2/15 BOC meeting AT&T representatives stated AT&T WILL NOT EQUIP NEW CELL TOWERS ANY TIME IN THE NEAR FUTURE. AT&T reneged on the original agreement after having the towers built.  Just recently AT&T stated there will be TWO towers that will be activated before the end of this year, and they are committed to “enhancing” the AT&T network in Jasper County. We just don’t when that “enhancement” will take place. Additionally, the BOC has refused to use the penalty clause of $350 per day to enforce compliance.

As a side note, AT&T had 2014 revenues of $131.6B with $30B of cash from operations according to their annual shareholder’s report. David Walker with AT&T wireless told the BOC, “AT&T has not forgotten the plan, but will do things as capital becomes available.”

TWG

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Posted in County, Economic Development, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

CITY AUDIT SHOWS WITHOUT UTILITY FUND TRANSFERS, CITY WOULD BE BROKE

August 23, 2015

 There have been complaints about the cost of Monticello’s utilities (water, gas, and electric) for as long as anyone can remember. However, if rates are lowered, the city would have to increase its property tax collections by same the amount or lower expenses by the same amount.

The 2014 City audit shows that without the utility fund transfers, Monticello would be insolvent.

 Electric System per the audit:

2014 CityElec2More detailed audit information shows Electric brought in $2.9M and paid out $2.7M to electric suppliers. This fund had other expenses and transferred $89,000 to the general fund and ended up with a $1600 overall loss for the year. The fund had $5,600 at the end of the year (12/31/14).

Water & Sewer fund per audit:

2014CityWaterMore detailed audit information shows Water & Sewer brought in $1.2M and paid out $400,000 to suppliers. This fund had other expenses and transferred $269,000 to the general fund and ended up with a $10,000 overall profit for the year. The fund had $374,000 at the end of the year (12/31/14).  Based on the auditor’s report, the Cash balance is only $3,000.

Natural Gas Fund per audit:

2014CityGas  More detailed audit information shows Natural Gas brought in $3.1M and paid out $2.6M to suppliers. This fund had other expenses and transferred $395,000 to the general fund and ended up with a $252 overall loss for the year. The fund had $500 at the end of the year (12/31/14).

When these utility funds transfer all their profits and reserves to the General Fund, the only things left to do if upgrades or major repairs are needed are 1) raise rates, 2) borrow money, or 3) increase property taxes.

It is up the citizens of the City to know how much money is being taken in and to watch how the money is being spent.

The audit shows the following for money brought in and spent by the City of Monticello in 2014:

Money received (rounded):

Taxes                             $898,000

Charges for service      $315,000

Licenses & Permits       $ 22,000

Other                             $206,000

Total received                                 $1,441,000

 Money spent (rounded):

General gov’t                $576,000

Police                            $557,000

Public works                 $634,000

Other                             $127,000

Total Spent                                      $1,894,000

 Overspent                                       $( 453,000)

Transfer In                                         $742,000

Transfer Out                                        ($325,000)

Spent over Received                            $( 36,000)

Fund balance is only $47,000.

The City Council must make some hard decisions soon to stay solvent.  In 2015 there will be no city police department; this may keep the City funds from ending in a deficit.

TWG

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Posted in City, Property taxes | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

“HERE LATELY PURCHASING HAS GOTTEN TO BE A HOT ISSUE FOR US.” –Gene Trammell

August 20, 2015

Procurement CorruptionThe problem is not the purchasing, the problem is the BOC hasn’t been following the bidding process to purchase larger items. 

Here’s what Chairman Trammell has to say on the subject:

Trammell said that he had asked people to bid on things and couldn’t get them to bid on items that “only cost” $5000. He says Jasper County’s purchasing policy is “antiquated.” But it sure is funny how they can get the people they ask to give “quotes”, isn’t it? Bidding allows everyone an opportunity to do the work or sell the product, not just people they know and they allow to give them a quote.

During the meeting Trammell said he was handing out policies from neighboring counties for each commissioner to look at. Do you think they might be more to Gene’s liking? Could any new policy just allow any or all of the commissioner’s friends to do the work or sell the county equipment without any bids at all?

Since Trammell said in a recent meeting they would be looking into purchasing “technology”, he might need to get a new policy in place quickly. Time will tell!

 

TWG

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Posted in Bidding, County | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

MACK TILLMAN ROAD—THE INSIDE STORY

August 18, 2015

Mack Tillman Dr4.070715.done by PW

After citizen comments, the BOC has started having Commissioner comments. Monday night during his comments, Comm. Pennamon tried to “set the story straight” about Mack Tillman Dr. He said PW did not pave that road. Listen to his explanation:

In reference to Mack Tillman Rd. Comm. Pennamon said, “It came out on the blog over the week-end. When we help by criticizing we need to have all the facts.” Well, Comm. Pennamon, just what are those facts?

Citizen comments based on facts as they knew them follow:

Mr. Charles Forsythe

 Mrs. Mary Patrick

 

Where did these citizens get their information about Mack Tillman Road being a test road? From the BOC meeting, of course. It is not something that was made up; it is something that the BOC discussed and Karen Degges said Mack Tillman Road would be the test road!! Watch the video:

Now the BOC wants to tell a different story. Just like the James Gregory deal—the BOC said no more vehicle allowance and voted on it in public, but a nice raise was approved behind closed doors.

This BOC thinks that it can “reprimand” the citizens for not knowing what “really” happened, when the only way to know what the BOC is doing is to be privy to the meetings in the dark or the telephone calls or the emails that the commissioners have between themselves.

So the real story is, Mack Tillman Rd. was a test road until it didn’t turn out well, and then it wasn’t. If this was a test road or not, why would PW do a poor job on it? Just because there was enough material left over from another job (Gap Creek Rd.) to do about 300’ of road, why should the work be done so poorly? What we understood Comm. Pennamon to say was, it is all ok to just dump the material down and roll over it because it was “left over” and that isn’t really paving.

 Your comments are welcome.

 

TWG

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Posted in County, Public Works | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

BOC WILLING TO BUY MORE EQUIPMENT AND HIRE MORE PEOPLE SO PUBLIC WORKS CAN “DO THE JOB”

August 18, 2015

FE Loader

The main topic at the BOC meeting last night was Public Works. Comm. Trammell stated, “You [referring to Preston Campbell, PW Director] know where we want to go. Despite what others say, we have confidence in you.” From there it was about what PW had and what they needed to start patching and paving roads.

 Mr. Campbell said they needed grass cutters in the north and south, and he wanted to have motorgraders in every district. (The last BOC purchased new motorgraders, so the county would have 5; two of them mysteriously burned up within a year. ) Trammell then reiterated that we need 3 or 4 more trained people– 2 more grass cutting tractors and 2 more motorgraders.

Comm. Henry asked how many employees PW had at present. The answer was 17 with 12 out in the field, which included 2 supervisors.   Comm. Henry then asked how many people would they need to run the patching machine. The answer was 3. Presently they would use men that run the bush cutters along with 1 dump truck driver; however, the chip spreader is still in need of some repairs.

Comm. Luke talked about working 5 days a week instead of 4, and Comm. Trammell agreed that in the winter time that should be the case. Comm. Henry said it would help with doing emergency stuff and putting up signs. There was talk of rotating from 4 days a week in the Spring/Summer and 5 days a week in the Fall/Winter changing with the daylight savings time schedule. Comm. Trammell also mentioned that no one answered the phone on Fridays presently.

 It seems all commissioners agreed that Karen Degges’ plan of hiring part time people to work during the summer was not a good idea. However, when she presented it, not one word was said and Sharon Robinson commented that they had been advertising under that plan and couldn’t get anyone to take a part time job at $8 per hour.

There were other BOC comments addressing citizens’ comments earlier in the meeting about the quality of work done by PW. (See one comment below) Comm. Luke made an interesting comment on that subject. Watch this short 47 second video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBypzT1Eo-g

“Everybody that lives on a road in Jasper County is a road expert,” per Doug Luke. Of course when we see poor work, motorgraders sitting in the same place for a week, and other problems, and then complain, we are either complainers and whiners or we are “experts.” Comm. Luke shows a lot of disdain for the citizens in these comments.  He also said, “No one comes to work every day and wants to do a poor job.”

Comm. Pennamon said, “If PW can prove to us and public that they can do the job, we can save lots of money to go toward salaries.”

 By the end of the meeting it appeared that the BOC would hire 4 more men, buy 2 more motorgraders, buy a machine to patch spiderwebs in the road, buy 2 more grass cutting tractors, and buy a 250 gallon emulsion tank.

Before long our county roads will be in the best shape ever because our BOC is confident that PW can do the job. The BOC seems to be willing to go into more debt to prove it.

 

TWG

 

Citizen’s comment on PW: Almost a year ago you had a gentlemen here that talked to you about roads, how to fix your roads, some things you could do to keep  the roads from deteriorating.  However, you have done none of that.  Somehow you rely on PW to fix your problems.  PW hasn’t fixed problems in the last decade.  When work like was done on Mack Tillman Rd. are allowed, and there are no consequences, work becomes shoddier over time.  As I told Mike Benton the other day, the supervisor of that job should have made the men come back on their own time and fixed that road or they should have all be fired.  This isn’t a one time problem; this is an all the time problem.  This isn’t because there hasn’t been training; this is because no one is required to do their job correctly; this is because there is a lack of supervision and a lack of accountability.  You talk about hiring more people.  Without proper supervision and without some consequences for poor job performance, you can hire all the people you want and still not have better roads.  If as you say, they can do a good job, why haven’t they been?

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Posted in County, Public Works | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments