IT’S A PATTERN FOR OUR COUNTY MANAGER
January 19, 2015
Could it be lost on Karen Degges’ desk?
Each year the county is required by law to have an audit. Since the county’s year end is June 30th, the audit is due by December 31st. We haven’t seen the audit for June 30, 2014 yet, and have had no answers from the BOC when they have been asked when it will be presented.
No one can remember when the Jasper County audit has ever been late, that is until Karen Degges was hired and was in charge of handling the audit. The CPA firm presented the audit last year on January 27, 2014 for the year ended June 30, 2013. Mark Hardison, a principle in the firm that has been doing the county audit, informed the commissioners that there had been “delays more than difficulties.” He also revealed several significant findings.
All this is similar to what happened in Baldwin, GA where Ms. Degges was first the Finance Director and then the City Administrator. The editor of the newspaper wrote an editorial informing Ms. Degges that she should be more worried about getting out the audit that was many months past due rather than hiding documents from the public and the press.
If you don’t want to read all of this excellent editorial, please read the parts we have highlighted. They are very telling.
When in Baldwin, GA Ms. Degges increased the budget to pay herself and hire more people to help her, and of course, raised taxes by 2 mils in doing so. Sound familiar? She started here as the County Manager/Finance Director. She then hired a separate finance director, has moved the EMS billing clerk in the office to help her, in addition to the 2 other women in the office. That is now 5 people in that office. Ms. Degges has advertised for another person—an administrative assistant to also help her. We are sure she has been busy convincing the BOC to hire someone else. We are also sure she has told them “it can be covered in the budget” with all the “savings” she somehow finds. Yet, we had a 2.15 mil increase under her FY15 budget.
The audit just may reveal where the county stands financially, and it may not be where Ms. Degges has led the BOC to believe it is. The longer the delay, the longer she can keep up her spending and the longer she can keep adding more and more personnel to do her job for her.
Last year when the audit came in with so many significant findings, Ms. Degges blamed Lorri Smith. This year, not long after the end of the fiscal year (June 30th) when the audit work was to begin, Ms. Degges first moved Phyllis Studdard out of Finance (August) and over to P&Z, and then fired her (October). We feel certain this was so Ms. Degges would have someone else to blame if things didn’t turn out the way she said they would—she has repeatedly told the BOC that everything was within budget.
After the last audit presentation (1/27/14), Comm. Gene Trammell made the following comment, “We have a good person now [Karen Degges], and we’ll have a clean opinion next year.” He said this after the CPA talked about all the findings and problems. We can only hope Comm. Trammell is right, but we have our doubts. If everything is so good, the audit should have already been completed by now.
TWG wishes The Monticello News would keep a closer eye on what goes on and the financial health of our county. Here is how Mr. Buffington closed his editorial:
The Banks County News will keep the spotlight on Degges and Baldwin financial operations. If Degges persists in efforts to hide city documents or hold secret meetings, we will respond in whatever means necessary to keep citizens informed.