Editorial: Danville must steer its finances back on course

March 05, 2004

The city of Danville is in a fortunate position in these tight financial times. It is sitting pretty with a sizable nest egg while other cities and the state struggle to make ends meet. Multimillion-dollar projects can be considered at the drop of a hat.

There's just one flaw with this picture. The latest audit of city accounts finds the finance department is "a rudderless ship." The comments made by auditor Craig Butler echo problems found in the 2000-2001 audit, so it can't be dismissed as a one-time problem.

It turns out the 2002-2003 fiscal year was a bad year for the residents of Danville.

After all, it is primarily our tax money and the money we pay for water and sewer that the city's finance staff is overseeing. And if they don't get it right, the residents are the ones who will have to financially correct the problem.

It is incumbent on this City Commission to find out just what it should have been doing to see that the finance department was operating correctly. One problem mentioned by Commissioner Terry Crowley was the delay in hiring a bookkeeper. There are bound to be others.


The Tuesday release of the audit must have been an eye-opener for City Manager Darrell Blenniss, who just came on board Monday. While the city also may need a finance director, as suggested by Crowley, it is evident that the city manager, regular or acting, has the responsibility to check the work being done by the finance department and any other department. Our hope is that Blenniss will use his background in finance to steer the city into smooth financial waters.

Ironically, 2004 is the year when a new city commission will be selected and the majority of the candidates are tied to this audit. Candidate Alex Stevens was mayor from July through December 2003 and Kevin Caudill, another candidate, was on the commission during that time. Ryan Owens and Jamey Gay served with Caudill and Stevens and are on the current commission, which took office in January 2003. The current terms of Mayor John Bowling and Commissioners Crowley and Chester Kavanaugh cover the January-June 2003 part of the fiscal year.

In addition, Stevens, Owens and Gay were on the commission when the 2000-2001 audit found that financial statements were not reviewed and that a $100,000 insurance payment didn't get posted for a year.

Danville's residents need to know that the taxes they send to the city end up in good hands. It is incumbent on the City Commission to let us know as soon as possible just what it plans to do to make sure our money is handled in an efficient, safe and financially sound way.

Our elected officials and the staff they hired failed us. Bowling said he "sensed something was wrong all year," but hesitated to bring it up because he didn't want to embarrass people. His hesitancy ended up embarrassing not only himself, but those of us who pay taxes as well.

The findings of the audit for 2002-2003 make us wonder what surprises await city residents when the current fiscal year is over. It might be a good idea to have an accountant give July through February accounting practices a look-see so any mistakes can be corrected now.

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