Killeen council members agreed unanimously Tuesday to the presentation format for how the findings of a Killeen finances investigation will be presented, but with one addition.
When Houston-based public accounting firm McConnell & Jones publicly reveals its conclusions, the council wants to see proof that the firm did what it said it was going to do, and specifically, how auditors arrived at those conclusions. It stopped short of asking that tipster’s names be revealed, but requested the type of person — his or her job classification — be mentioned.
Seven key areas are being reviewed, per council authorization.
The investigative audit by McConnell & Jones was approved March 14.
Public perception and trust had declined when city administrators failed to share news of declining city finances, kept it quiet for years and then finally acknowledged the city has an $8 million budget shortfall last summer.
Overspending from at least fiscal years 2013-16 was visible in lopsided budgets, and although the city almost balanced the fiscal year 2016-17 budget and began work on 2018, it left in its wake a trail of questionable financial decisions with little or no explanation.
“There appears to be a lack of analysis of the long-term fiscal impact when presenting recommendations to Council,” the McConnell & Jones preliminary report to council reads. “The City lacks critical policies in many areas to guide decision-making.”
The report said the city did not make it easy for council members to make more knowledgeable decisions.
In discussion that lasted about an hour Tuesday, whether to include the names of sources that provided tips and information to the firm during its examination of city finances — was up for debate.
“How transparent are we going to be if we can’t mention no names?” said Councilman Juan Rivera. “When you say transparency, for me, it’s the whole picture.”
City Auditor Matthew Grady countered by focusing on the potential consequences. It would “certainly have a chilling effect” on any future audits, he said.
City Attorney Kathryn Davis clarified: The names of sources who provided information will be kept confidential, but anyone spotlighted for criminal wrongdoing would be exposed; those names would be public.
The council approved the format and asked for an additional notation on each of one of the findings to show justification.
Councilwoman Debbie Nash-King weighed in by outlining her definition of transparency. From her perspective, providing the public as much detail about the firm’s findings is critical.
“You have to talk to past leaders to see the train of thought … you cannot pull pieces and then put the puzzle together,” Nash-King said. “You have to have the whole view. If you’re going to spend $400,000 and present a package to the residents that have been begging and asking for this, you need to know the whole story.”
The Herald raised questions June 11 concerning the audit firm’s strategy because it had identified trouble locating older documents to support expenditures, but had not contacted several formers city administrators and finance managers. Go to http://bit.ly/2solufz to read that story.
Councilman Jim Kilpatrick, the chairman of the audit subcommittee charged with monitoring the audit’s progress, pushed back on Nash-King, indicating that the council does not have subpoena rights to compel witnesses to come forward.
“We cannot make an individual or employee come talk to us, so therefore, if you’re going to say you want names … the classification of the individual we would like to know,” Kilpatrick said.
Killeen city code, however, says the council does have the power to “inquire into the conduct of any office, department, agency or officer of the city” and to “make investigations as to municipal affairs.”
The city code shows the council “may subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, and compel the production of books, papers and other evidence,” and failure to obey is a misdemeanor.
The Audit Advisory Committee will be briefed by the firm on findings Tuesday. It is expected to be a closed session, according Kilpatrick. Following the meeting, the council will be briefed. It also is expected to be closed session.
The firm will provide a draft report July 7 to the council, and city management will be afforded the opportunity to agree or disagree with findings before results become public. A final report July 24 is anticipated with a final presentation.