A resignation letter penned by a previous Semmes economical director alleges some town leaders had been persistently permitted to disregard inside financial controls.
In the 3-page letter shipped in early January, Mary Calhoun, a certified general public accountant, knowledgeable Semmes Mayor Brandon Van Hook, city attorney Jacob Fuller and metropolis human resource coordinator Olivia Zirlott, of her retirement and claimed it was prompted by absence of support for the financial policies she was attempting to create in metropolis government.
Calhoun thorough numerous new anecdotes the place she alleged numerous department heads — particularly Semmes Fireplace Main Kevin Brooks — have demonstrated “total disregard” for the city’s monetary protocols and have routinely engaged in “confirmatory paying out,” where buys for issues which includes $480 in ball caps, window tint, and new motor vehicles, have been initiated in advance of economic approval.
“I am resigning, not mainly because I am seeking to retire, but thanks to the lack of help for inside controls I have experimented with to put into action, specifically in paying for,” she wrote. “Internal controls are the spine of excellent federal government. Without having them there is chaos.”
Van Hook has denied the premise of the letter suggesting there is money misconduct taking place in the town, and mainly couched the accusations as grievances from a “disgruntled employee.”
Calhoun, who has a mixed 28 yrs in government finance, between the Cell County Sheriff’s Office and the Alabama Division of Examiners of General public Accounts, arrived out of retirement and was introduced on with the metropolis when Van Hook very first took office environment in 2020. He claimed she was appeared on to build solid inner money procedures exactly where they were being missing. Calhoun is also a former Semmes City Council member.
In her resignation letter, Calhoun described unaddressed traits of section heads working all-around her fiscal stopgaps, a little something she reported she could not ethically enable occurring.
What Calhoun factors to as a “final straw” was an incident exactly where Brooks submitted a acquire requisition for 24 ball caps from a regional style store on Dec. 30, 2022, labeling the acquire less than the line item code for uniforms. Calhoun denied the requisition, arguing it violated the competitive bid protocols.
For every state regulation, expenses for labor, products and services, or do the job, and the invest in or lease of components, provides, equipment, or other personalized residence involving $15,000 or much more are subject to aggressive bid.
She explained the metropolis of Semmes as a whole buys much more than $15,000 in uniforms per calendar year and involves a competitive bid, or to obtain the products from a certified cooperative.
The day following denying the requisition, Calhoun stated the Fire Section submitted a receipt from Dec. 22, 2022, showing the hats experienced now been ordered and that they were being obtained outside the house of the city’s specified “buyer,” who was licensed to make purchases.
“The fire office is familiar with requisitions are to be submitted, permitted and a order buy issued before buys can be designed,” she wrote. “The fireplace office certainly ignored the internal controls about purchasing and requested ball caps. The metropolis is not obligated to pay back for the caps as the proper strategies ended up not followed.”
Calhoun afterwards uncovered the fire chief requested the hats in the vicinity of the close of fiscal yr 2022 on September 30, 2022, during a period when obtaining was suspended. An agreement was also allegedly created with the seller to have the ball caps sent straight away because of to reduced inventory, but to have the transaction delayed right up until 2023.
“This reflects a complete disregard for the inner controls and willful intention to do so,” Calhoun wrote.
On Jan. 5, 2023, Calhoun explained the fireplace chief followed up with an email, apologizing for distributing the requisition late and indicating he would reclassify the ball caps beneath “Event Supplies” stating they are advertising provides and not truly uniforms. In accordance to Calhoun, the Party Provides code is generally reserved for handouts at public situations, these types of as the Azalea Pageant and Nationwide Night time Out — not $20 hats.
“Justifications had been modified much more than 4 months after the unofficial get was placed in purchase to pay some thing that would not have been permitted experienced it been submitted less than usual situation. This is not appropriate or superior business enterprise,” she wrote.
Other illustrations of ignoring controls involve the reservation of two new pickup vehicles for the hearth division prior to the Fiscal Calendar year 2023 authorised by the Semmes Town Council. She mentioned the new police division has also submitted confirmatory requisitions for matters like window tinting.
“Before I can find funding and approve the requisition, the car detailed in the requisition pulls up to metropolis corridor with tinted windows and the invoice hooked up to the requisition. Once more confirmatory,” she wrote, including that payments for history checks for new officers are normally dealt with the exact way.
Calhoun resigned later on in the evening on Jan. 5, 2023, immediately after understanding the fire department’s attempt to reclassify the ball caps allegedly was shaped in the course of a dialogue with Van Hook and a lessen ranking member of her staff.
Calhoun considered crafting the resignation letter was required following a conference on Jan. 6 with Van Hook and the city HR coordinator about her resignation, exactly where she claimed the mayor tried to body her departure as a retirement.
“What I heard at that time (unsaid of system) was that this is the story everyone else will listen to,” she wrote.
In accordance to Calhoun, who is 62, retirement experienced not been in her strategies and she had been functioning on upcoming finances amendments, planning for the future fiscal yr and getting ready for an upcoming audit. She was also not completed applying the city’s new accounting program.
“After putting in 581 several hours extra than frequent complete-time hrs in the to start with 14 months of my work, I would have favored to appreciate the fruits of my labor. Even so, it is noticeable that if I continue to be I will not acquire the support necessary to enforce internal controls and be envisioned to be a portion of sweeping other employees’ deliberate non-compliant actions less than the rug,” she wrote.
“I will not decreased my moral specifications to you should the city of Semmes.”
Multiple makes an attempt to achieve Calhoun for remark have been unsuccessful.
In a cell phone job interview Monday, April 3, Van Hook reported prior to him bringing Calhoun on to his employees, Semmes experienced no inner controls. He recommended Calhoun for her perform for the town through her employment.
Van Hook said he thinks the breakdown in Calhoun’s need to get the job done with the town was a issue of conflating condition regulation with her very own chosen fiscal policies.
On the challenge of obtaining competitive bids for uniforms, he reported Calhoun’s opinion was incorrect. He said the town has corresponded with lawyers with the Alabama League of Municipalities and was offered the viewpoint they would not will need to protected bids for uniforms.
“The threshold for bids is a $15,000 threshold, but it is per seller,” Van Hook claimed. He said Calhoun’s accounting techniques were breaking anything into group codes, these as uniforms, and office environment supplies, and she was restricting purchases dependent on the types. He reported the metropolis doesn’t have to take into account uniform costs on a citywide foundation, but alternatively for particular person departments. Should really a single section invest much more than $15,000 on uniforms, then it would need a bid.
The mayor stated he “corrected” her about the big difference and she became “disgruntled” and resigned. He speculated there was a reason why Calhoun was not speaking with the newspaper and questioned whether or not she would stand driving the claims if questioned.
“Our books are an open up report. We are in fact in our audit appropriate now. We have all of our audits on the internet. We have absolutely nothing to conceal,” he explained.
Inspite of the illustrations detailed by Calhoun, Van Hook claimed the city’s obtaining coverage even now calls for requisitions to be filed for every obtain. He reported the issues were being not introduced to his attention until the letter was sent.
Calhoun was scheduled to do the job as a result of March 31 and train her alternative. On the other hand, Van Hook ended her work a month early. He did not want to discuss why, but reported it had to do with one thing he deemed unfair to the town. Van Hook explained Calhoun’s departure disrupted the city’s ongoing internal audit for about two months, but the metropolis is back again on observe and workforce are up to speed.
The Metropolis Council appointed Heather Davis as town clerk on March 7. She is also serving as the city’s finance director, which is popular between more compact municipalities.
The mayor reported the letter had not been shared with the Metropolis Council, indicating, “they never will need to know about it” and conveying Calhoun was used by him, not the council. Having said that, he claimed Calhoun’s resignation was discussed through an executive session. When supplied a copy of the letter, Semmes councilman Tony Ebright explained to Lagniappe he was not mindful of it.
Lagniappe requested the letter from the city beneath the Alabama Open up Records Act and was to begin with declined by the city’s legal professional Jacob Fuller. He argued the newspaper did not have a genuine explanation for asking for the documents and that the letter “was acquired in self-confidence and includes sensitive personnel data.”
Soon after learning the newspaper believed there were allegations of monetary impropriety in the letter, Van Hook experienced the letter produced.
“If you feel that we’re misusing resources, I assume you ought to have a duplicate of the letter,” Van Hook said.
League of Municipalities senior affiliate counsel Rob Johnson verified the state’s bid threshold of $15,000 only applies for individual purchases, not throughout a broad selection of purchases. He said there are mechanisms in the legislation banning piecemealed purchases to steer clear of the bid legislation. On the other hand, for a string of buys to be inappropriate, he explained there would have to be evidence or indicators it was coordinated and carried out deliberately.