State audit of Selma finances released Friday finds multiple problems, procedure violations

An audit of the city of Selma has been released.
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A months-long state audit looking at four years of the City of Selma’s finances was released Friday, and it shows a citywide failure to follow procedures, collect revenue, spend department funds correctly, hire contractors properly and more.

At officials’ request, state auditors came to Selma to dig through the city’s books from Oct. 1, 2015, through Aug. 20, 2019, and the report released Friday says they “attempted to evaluate internal controls at the City’s offices; however, the City does not have adequate written policies and procedures in place to ensure the City is operating effectively, efficiently, and in compliance with applicable laws and regulations.”

The timeframe includes when former Mayor George Evans was in office and when current Mayor Darrio Melton took office in 2016.

On his Friday morning radio show on 94.7 FM, Melton said the timing of the audit’s release during the coronavirus scare is “heavy,” but it is important to “make sure taxpayers’ money is being spent correctly.”

City Councilman Carl Bowline posted on Facebook about the audit:

“I am glad the report has been released and we can start to move on years worth of bad decisions, poor advice and a lack of proper controls. Past administrations and the current administration including both past and current mayors as well as councils have operated outside the lines and in my opinion we have been given a gift and now all understand the clear path do repair the damage done to our city.”

Internal control deficiencies include a lack of accounting for assets owned by the city, few documentation supporting expenditures of funds and purchases being made without following the City’s processes for approving transactions and processing payments.

A review of the minutes of the City Council’s meetings shows that claims, requisitions and demands are not being submitted by the Clerk for the City Council’s approval.

One major issue found is improper execution of contracts. The mayor is required to sign contracts, but many have the signature of Council President Corey Bowie instead. The city also gave a public works contract to a general contractor who is not licensed in Alabama.

The auditors also said the “City is not always expending the City’s funds for public purposes” and found cases where the city spent more than $15,000 without going through the required bidding process.

Many of the issues listed were in the public works department, with multiple instances of noncompliance with the Alabama Public Works Law, such as splitting projects to circumvent the Public Works requirements; noncompliance with provisions regarding emergency repairs; and noncompliance with advertising requirements.

There were also problems found in the Municipal Court that include loss of revenue of about $514,792 in uncollected court fees over the last four years and lack of collection for police citations.

Read the full report here.