A Warrenton alderman continues to question an attempt by a resident to have the city audited by the state.
Ward 1 Alderman John Cornell last week said he has personally taken steps to remedy those concerns, but his efforts have been rejected by Stan Shelton.
Shelton is a city resident conducting a petition drive to have the city audited by the state auditor.
Speaking at last Tuesday’s board of aldermen meeting, Cornell said he has fielded numerous questions from residents regarding Shelton’s attempt to have the state audit the city.
He said he offered to allow Shelton to review city documents, but was turned down. That offer included a review of the city’s 2011 audit which gave the city a clean report and no citations or recommendations for improvements.
Some of Cornell’s frustration deals with the expense related to conducting a state audit which will ultimately be paid by the city. The estimated cost of the audit is between $50,000 and $65,000.
“The ability to petition the state is a procedure that is valid and is necessary in some cases. But my only concern is there is an audit that has been performed and a willingness on my part and others within the city prior to making the step of requesting an audit that may cost $50,000 to $60,000,” he said. “I hope the citizens of the city realize that offer is open to any citizen that has questions or concerns with how their city is run.”
Since informing city officials at the May 15 board of aldermen meeting that he was beginning a petition drive, Shelton Friday said approximately 320 to 330 signatures have already been gathered, and he expects to have the required 417 collected by the end of the month.
“The audit is going forward,” Shelton told The Record. “It’s not stopping. Ninety percent of the residents (signing the petition) think something shady was going on. The $50,000 to $65,000. . . it will be well spent.”
Shelton previously said he was prompted to seek the state audit once employment contracts were granted to Director of Operations/Finance Officer Terri Thorn and Police Chief Greg Houdyshell, a decision that was made during a closed session meeting held on April 3. The contracts were proposed by then-Mayor Greg Costello, who said both city employees had been targeted for termination by mayoral candidate and eventual winner Jerry Dyer. The contracts were approved and signed on the same evening Dyer and two new aldermen were elected.
Thorn and Houdyshell, the two highest paid city employees with annual salaries of $79,536.06 and $64,890 respectively, are the only city employees who have employment contracts.
Under the terms of the contract, if either employee would be dismissed without cause, they would receive a severance equal to a year’s salary. According to the contract, if either employee is discharged for cause, they would not be entitled to severance pay.
Shelton also has been critical of the city’s decision to spend $791,170 for 7 acres located behind the Warrenton Cinema 8 in 2008. The land was purchased for a proposed indoor recreation facility, but two half-cent sales tax proposals to fund the project were defeated by voters in 2008 and again in 2012.
Cornell, who was elected to his first term in April, still has doubts on whether an audit is appropriate.
“Some of his concerns have been made in the past by this board,” he said. “There were decisions I wouldn’t necessarily have made, but they were legal decisions made by a sworn board.”
Once the 417 signatures are collected, the completed petition will be sent to the state and then forwarded to the county clerk, according to Shelton. Once the signatures are verified and ruled valid, he said the state will then be able to start the audit.