Oak Grove City Council will request an independent forensic audit in order to establish a “clean slate” when the city hires a new public works director and finance director.
Councilmember Janet Edwards shared with the council that she requested to have an independent audit put on Tuesday night’s council meeting agenda.
Edwards said the council had “tossed around the idea” to hire an independent auditor to go through all of the city’s finances and records.
“So, I kind of just wanted to throw this out there on the table and discuss what we want to do, how we want to do it, what the time frame is and who we would hire,” Edwards said.
Councilmember Jackie Oliver said, “Especially since we’re going to have a new (Public Works) director — we should have a clean slate.
“With so much controversy and negative nonsense that went on, I believe that it wouldn’t be fair to the new person if we don’t at least give them a shot.”
City Attorney Mark Gilbert said the council would first have to make sure that an independent audit is within the city’s budget. In the case that it’s not, the council would have to amend it to include funds for the audit.
The council did not believe an independent audit was budgeted in this fiscal year budget; however, they would likely amend it after the council agrees on a firm to hire for the audit.
Gilbert added that the mayor would also have to approve the independent audit, as she has the executive power to hire an accounting firm.
“I think I’ll be acceptable to whoever you choose if council chooses to do so,” Mayor Theresa Jarvis said. “That’s not a problem. If that’s what you guys want to do, then we need to go ahead and get somebody in and start on that process.”
Edwards said she researched accounting firms for the council to hire and none were local firms.
“I did a little research and found a couple firms that I thought would be good,” Edwards said. “They were not local and there was a reason that I did that. I don’t want there to be any appearance of impropriety. I don’t want anyone to say that anybody had any connections to anyone.
“I would like to get somebody that’s not from this area, that does not have any preconceived notions of what the city is,” she continued. “I would like them to come in with an open, clean mind and dig through our records.”
Edwards said she would send her two recommendations of firms to all of the council members to then discuss at the next council meeting.
Oliver said she had researched two firms from Hopkinsville and Pembroke that she would also provide to the council for consideration.
The council agreed that after reviewing those firms, it would return to discuss the subject at the next council meeting.
The council agreed to unanimously approve an ordinance that would establish a code of ethics for the city and a code of ethics board.
The ordinance establishes a code of conduct that prohibits city employees and agencies from conflicts of interest, requires financial disclosures of city officers and candidates for office, provides an ethics board to enforce the ordinance and provides powers and procedures for the matters that would go before the ethics board.
The ordinance would also require city employees to receive training on the code of ethics, Gilbert added.
Councilmember Kisha Mische-Jeffrey requested that City Hall have a designated and secure place for the financial disclosures the ordinance requires.
“We talked about the financial disclosures and where those documentations would be maintained and that we needed to have a secure area and have that detailed in the ordinance, because it says that the ethics board or designee would be maintaining those financial records, but we never determined where that was going to take place and how we were going to have those records maintained,” Jeffrey said.
Jeffrey added that she felt specification was necessary for the ordinance in order to prevent anyone from taking those records home or allowing them out to the public.
Jarvis suggested that the city use a locked, fireproof cabinet safe that is currently in the city’s storage to maintain those records.
In other business
- The council unanimously approved the declaration of a Oak Grove Fire Department pumper truck as surplus in order for the city to sell it to the Pembroke Fire Department for roughly $30,000. Jarvis shared that the city would then use those funds and possibly trade in the firetruck that is currently in repair to purchase a new fire truck for the city.
- The council unanimously approved the declaration of several Oak Grove Police Department handguns that are roughly 15 years old as surplus in order for the police department to trade them in toward new ones. Police Chief Dennis Cunningham shared that trading in the old handguns would save the city around $3,000 for the purchase of new ones.
- The council unanimously approved the Christian County Health Department’s Harm Reduction Program. It is a syringe program designed to reduce the harms associated with substance use and syringe sharing, such as HIV and Hepatitis C.