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Spirit of Jefferson Farmers Advocate
Charles Town, West Virginia
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January 10, 2018     Spirit of Jefferson Farmers Advocate
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January 10, 2018
 

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PAGE A4 Wednesday, JanuaD" 10, 2018 NEWS PIRI I of ,IE. F ERSON and FARMER'S ADVOCATE Audit FROM PAGE A1 counting firm Perry & Associates to conduct a two-year financial au- dit of the District after alleging that funds from a 2-year-old capital re- serve account established by the Legislature had either gone missing or were not being spent legally. On Thursday, commissioners asked County Administrator Steph- anie Grove to schedule a meeting with Perry accountant Jodey Airi- er to review the audit. Grove told commissioners the firm was avail- able for a conference call on Jan. 18, but commissioners said they preferred a face-to-face meeting. Commissioners Josh Compton, Peter Onoszko and Caleb Hudson approved a contract last summer to spend up to $19,900 for the au- dit as part of a flur- ry of activity against the 34-year-old util- ity, which became the target of some customers' ire after it proposed to build a sewer upgrade project in the Flow- ing Springs area at a cost of about $6.8 million. In March, the same commissioners voted to dissolve the sewer utility days af- ter the PSD received approval for the upgrade from the West Virginia Public Service Com- mission. And months later, the same three sought the removal of the District's board chairman and the project's chief proponent, Bill Strider, just months before his term was set to expire on the grounds that because he was a resident of Ranson, his property was not part of the PSD's service area. In May and again in December, the same commissioners appointed to the District's board two longtime critics of the PSD and opponents of its sewer project - Roger Forshee and Todd Milliron - essentially re- making the District's board from No evidence of mismanagement or misappropriation of funds at the county's Public Service District was found after Jefferson County Commissioners Josh Compton (from left), Peter Onoszko and Caleb Hudson authorized spending up to $19,900 for an Ohio firm to re-audit the PSD. Commissioners Patsy Noland and Jane Tabb had urged against spending the money, saying the "clean" audit by Martinsburg- based Cox Hollida provided all relevant Information. one that opposed its dissolution and acquisition by Charles Town to one that supported those moves. The fight against the PSD has not been entirely waged by the county commission. Last year, PSD cus- tomer Jacquelyn Milliron filed complaints before the West Vir- ginia Ethics Commission against Strider and then-board member ence of opinion about how money intended as part of its annual rate increment is allowed to be spent. The audit also found nothing wrong with the District's staffing and legal expenses, nor with its ac- counting practices. Instead, the au- dit concluded that customers rates are high for a number of reasons, among them that challenges to the "As far as an audit goes, to suggest that an audit is not successful or a waste of taxpayer dollars because you find no fraud does not make sense. It actually is successful because - good - they aren't doing anything, we can verify that now with a third party and now we can tell members of the community here you go, here's the audit, they are saying that's fine." because you find no fraud does not make sense. It actually is success- ful because - good - they aren't doing anything, we can verify that now with a third party and now we can tell members of the community here you go, here's the audit, they are saying that's fine." Compton noted that the audit failed to clarify whether the PSD was complying with the terms of SB234, which authorized the reserve account, and took issue with comments made in the audit by its one- time legal coun- sel, Jim Kelsh, who said it is the actions of intervenors that have inflated sewer costs. I JOSH COMPTON, Jefferson County I District's proposals by its ratepay- ers have inflated costs by about 300 percent and added more than $3 million in bills for work that was never completed. At last week's commission meet- ing, Compton suggested the audit was money well spent, even though no irregularities were uncovered. "The reason you do an audit is just to ensure - my biggest thing is trust but verify, and at the coun- ty commission level we're ensured with the tax dollars of the coun- ty and essentially overarching on some of these boards," Compton said. "As far as an audit goes, to suggest that an audit is not success- ful or a waste of taxpayer dollars Richard Weese. And in August, Forshee filed an ethics complaint against for- mer PSD general manager Susanne Lawton, who PSD board members were considering retaining as a consultant following her retirement in August. The complaints against Strider and Weese were dismissed about a year ago. The state Ethics Commission dismissed the com- plaint against Lawton on Dec. 20. The audit concluded that the cap- ital reserve account, authorized in Senate Bill 234 and for which the PSC approved a $17.85 per 1,000 gallon rate hike, is being properly funded at its targeted amount, but acknowledged that there is a differ- curring here? I'm just throwing this out, maybe past PSDs haven't done an adequate job of talking to their ratepayers of why things needed to be done I think the PR aspect of this was lacking." Compton jousted with Com- missioner Patsy Noland through- out Thursday's discussion, and ap- peared not to hear her when she ex- plained why the District lost fed- eral stimulus funding, raising the issue again minutes later as he ran down a list of the District's failures, among them that lost project ex- penses added up to more than $3.18 million over 10 years. Compton said that showed bad planning on the part of the District. Noland countered that the PSD and the developers who planned proj- ects were the victims of the collapse of the building industry in Jefferson County in 2008, a collapse that oc- curred nationwide. Compton also complained that details of the audit were released by the media before the commission had the opportunity to discuss its findings, calling it a lack of "com- mon courtesy." Compton took to Facebook on Dec. 30 and Dec. 31 to share in- formation about the audit. Noland posted details about the audit on a Facebook page that she administers "My thing is, on Dec. 29 and 31. The Spirit's ini- just coming from tial story about the audit appeared me utmty industry,on Jan.3. you're not going to go into any sort of case to build large infrastructure or raise rates that you're not going to have an in- tervenor," Compton said. "If you're going to raise bills and we already see the disproportion of bills in the county between sewer compa- nies, so the PSD has 30 to 40 per- cent higher rates than Charles Town or Ranson, it's fact. So in this he is suggesting that costs and legal fees are 300 percent higher because peo- ple are exercising their right to pro- test things that will affect them, es- sentially due process rights. This happens in all utilities. "My question is - and he says this doesn't occur most often in other PSDs in the state, so why is it oc- Onoszko addressed the wording of the audit itself, suggesting that its conclusion that there were no indications of "obvious misman- agement" may mean something more. "It has been said that the devil is in the details and I am still in the process of formulating questions that I wish to ask (Perry & Associ- ates) so I am withholding a lot of judgment until that occurs," Ono- szko said. "'Obvious' is in the eyes of the beholder and with this report things scream out at me that need to be further looked at and how they came up with the idea of 'obvious.' Obviously, what appeared ob- vious to the auditor did not appear obvious to me." A look at tant audit Jodey Altler Jodey Altier is the president and managing partner of Perry & Associ- ates CPAs who in 2016 won the Wom- an-Owned Business Certification from the Women's Business Enterprise Na- tional Council. Perry & Associates has offices in Vienna in Wood County as well as two offices in Ohio, in Marietta, Ohio and St. Clairsville. The finn employs dozens of account- ing and auditing professionals in both West Virginia and Ohio. One speciality of Altier's is providing forensic services for government agen- cies, police forces, attorneys, banking institutions and federal investigators nationwide. The Women's Business Enterprise National Council is the largest third- party certifier for businesses owned, controlled and operated by women in the United States. The Women's Business Enterprise National Council certification is one of the most recognized certifications by public, private, nonprofit and government entities. Achieving the certificate entails an extensive ap- plication review process and an on- site interview. Airier is a certified public account who obtained the American Institute of Certified Accountants Certification in financial forensics in 2015. She graduated from Ohio Universi- ty with bachelor degrees in accounting and psychology and began her career in public accounting at Price Water- house Coopers. The City will collect undecorated, clean Christmas trees at no charge to all City residents through the end of January. Rotary Club of Charles Town since 2000 with the beginning of the J.B. Smith Memorial Trees should be placed on the curb Golf Tournament in memory of Tuesday night for Wednesday my brother, J.B. The tournament raised over morning collection with the yard $425,000 for local charities. I so enjoyed helping waste. Yard waste stickers are not Rotary with the gaff toumament that I joined the required for Christmas trees, but are club in 20131 Currently I serve as Club Secretary. I required for all other yard waste, have found Rotary to be the best way to serve my community, and to make Jefferson County a better P- 0ne: 304-725-2311 1 place for all to five. 101 E. Washington St./P0 Box 14 Charles Town, WV 25414-0014 Are you interested in being a Rotarian? www.charlestownwv.us Email: r0taryclub0fcharlestown@gmail.com Home & Auto Boat Farms Motorcycle Businessowners,Life Contractors Health Insurance Horse Risk Disability Income Umbrella Liability Annuities 118 N. Charles Street Charles Town, WV F ~ il-,z. Downtown Charles Town JEWELERS, INC. 304-725-7411 Servino their tommunililes and helpino those in need Family Owned & Operated Rt. 340 at Halltown Rd Chades Town/Harpers Ferry 304-724-6500 BUICK-GMC TRUCKS Customer Driven Since 1967 www.GilleysHVAg.com W~22S 800-725-2524 Small tree work Traeh hauled Edgar A. Bohrer ~ 6HeS Mill Rd, Bunker Iitli, WV New & Used Farm You can advertise in this space for just $5 a week! 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