It’s obvious Jim Kilpatrick doesn’t really want an audit.
The District 3 Killeen city councilman on March 14 cast one of only two votes against proceeding with a management audit of the city’s finances.
Then last Tuesday, Kilpatrick sharply questioned funding of the audit during a council meeting in which he eventually endorsed spending the $394,000 needed to conduct the investigation.
Apparently, Kilpatrick has misgivings about the audit the council has approved.
Yet, as head of the ad hoc Audit Advisory Committee, he has a responsibility to see the audit through to its completion.
In his role of committee chairman, Kilpatrick is tasked with giving directions to the audit firm — Houston-based McConnell & Jones — based on council recommendations.
With the majority of the council endorsing a seven-point management audit and funding for such an investigation, Kilpatrick has been out of step. It’s reasonable to ask whether he is committed to the process in the near term, or to continuing the process once the mid-audit report is presented next month.
As such, Kilpatrick owes it to the council and the city’s taxpayers to step down off the committee.
At Monday’s candidate forum sponsored by the Herald, Kilpatrick — who is up for re-election in May — sounded like the dutiful public servant when asked about his support for an audit, noting that the public had asked for an audit, so he would support one.
That was a change in tune from his comments at the March 14 meeting, at which he asserted that few residents wanted an audit. He said he had conducted a poll of voters in his district and that 87 percent of the people he talked to didn’t see the audit as a priority.
Apparently, Kilpatrick has forgotten the dozens of people who clamored for an audit at last summer’s contentious budget hearings.
His numbers also don’t mesh with a recent Herald unscientific online poll that showed more than 80 percent of the more than 200 respondents favored an intensive audit of the city’s finances.
Less than 24 hours after Kilpatrick made his pro-audit comments at the forum, he and Councilman Juan Rivera — another member of the ad hoc committee — tried to derail funding for the audit, asking whether the expenditure would have a negative impact on the city’s budget or specific departments’ budgets.
City Finance Director Jon Locke assured them it would not — noting that the money to pay for the audit would come from fund balances of the city’s general fund and two enterprise funds.
As chairman of Audit Advisory Committee, Kilpatrick should have known where the money was coming from. Either he didn’t do his homework about the funding plan or he was throwing out objections to make a point. Neither is acceptable from a leadership standpoint.
For months, Kilpatrick and Rivera have maintained that the city was in good financial shape and that there was no need for a forensic audit because there is no evidence of criminal wrongdoing at City Hall in recent years.
That may be true, but without a comprehensive audit, there is no way to make that statement with absolute certainty.
Further, the possibility of misappropriation of funds through negligence, poor management or flawed practices still exists — further reason why an extensive external audit is essential.
Meanwhile, the anti-audit crowd — including former Mayor Dan Corbin, who spoke out against the audit at a recent council meeting — continues to argue that the city’s yearly financial statement audit is proof that no investigation is needed.
The latest such audit was released last week, showing “no deficiencies or material weaknesses,” a fact touted by city spokeswoman Hilary Shine in a promotional video.
However, in a routine annual audit, auditors look only at certain numbers presented by the city, and it is limited in scope.
Last year’s annual audit by the Weaver auditing firm found no problems, either — just a few months before then-interim City Manager Ann Farris told the council the city faced an $8 million shortfall in the 2017 budget and that expenditures had exceeded revenues for three consecutive years.
For his part, Kilpatrick initially favored drawing down the city’s fund balance by more than $7 million as a solution to covering the projected budget shortfall last summer.
Yet an investment of less than $350,000 to look into the city’s financial practices drew his opposition last week.
Something doesn’t add up.
Either Kilpatrick is yielding to pressure from a segment of the community that doesn’t want to see an intensive audit, or he truly believes that last summer’s budget crisis was a one-time problem that has no connection to the city’s long-term financial practices.
In either case, the city is not well-served by having him head up the committee charged with moving the audit forward.
The residents of Killeen have demanded an intensive external audit, and the council has approved one.
It’s time they have the proper leadership to see it through.