MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

March 11, 2014

Audit says Boynton rife with problems

Sloppy records, poor oversight noted as faults

An investigative audit of the town of Boynton and its Public Works Authority turned up numerous problems, a state official said.

Investigators with the Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector’s Office found trustees’ oversight “was lacking and sometimes non-existent.” They also “found the town’s records to be poorly maintained, vague, inaccurate and in many cases contradictory ... or missing.”

Auditor and Inspector Gary A. Jones described the problems uncovered by his investigators as the worst he has seen since he was elected in 2010. The investigative audit of the town of Boynton was one of many state auditors have conducted during Jones’ first term to “clear a huge backlog” of cases that accumulated during the tenure of Jones’ predecessor.

“There are obvious problems over there, and someone is going to have to step in and take control,” Jones said. “We have referred this to law enforcement and the town, so now it’s up to them to take whatever action they see as necessary.”

Town officials requested the audit after they discovered about a year ago discrepancies with financial records. Auditors reviewed records and town operations from Oct. 1, 2009, to June 30, focusing on payments made to the former town clerk, accounts payable, billing practices and receipts, and municipal court records.

Trustee Rose Walker said she believes a lot of the town’s problems “stemmed off from the clerk.” Former Town Clerk Tiffany Ledbetter-Mayo was elected to the office in 2009 and dismissed in 2013 after questions arose about her compensation.

The investigative report released by Jones’ office in February states Ledbetter-Mayo had received compensation for performing duties as town clerk, town treasurer, public works clerk, court clerk and water meter reader. Ledbetter-Mayo, who was the sole signatory for the town’s bank accounts, also received a travel allowance and compensation for unused sick leave.

Ledbetter-Mayo denied last year any wrongdoing, saying all payments she had received had been authorized by trustees. State auditors found during their investigation inadequate records to support her position, stating the minutes of meetings were “computer-generated ... copies” that were “unsigned, unofficial” and “contained ambiguous language.”

Because of poor record-keeping and lack of oversight, investigators were unable to determine with certainty “how much Ledbetter-Mayo should have been paid.” While they described some payments to the former town clerk as “highly questionable,” investigators were unable to determine whether any improper or unauthorized payments had been made with the exception of unused sick leave for which authorizing documentation was deemed inadequate.

Other findings include payments to vendors for which no purchase orders existed, others that did not match an existing purchase order. Investigators also “were unable to determine what the board actually approved for payment,” and the town was “unable to provide auditable records.”

According to the investigative report, Boynton Public Works Authority owes the town of Haskell more than $30,000 for bulk water purchases. Utility payments to the authority “could not be traced to daily payment reports or to bank deposits,” and the “board allowed substantial past due balances to go uncollected.”

With regard to the town’s municipal court records, investigators found documentation lacking, and records that were provided proved to be “of no value for audit (or) investigation purposes.” As a result, investigators were unable to ascertain whether court funds were missing.

Jones said the audit was delivered to the Muskogee County district attorney for further review and possible prosecution.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.

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