SCHUYLER COUNTY—Schuyler County’s financial managers lack the “knowledge and ability” to prepare financial statements that balance, and they will need more training or additional staff—probably both—to carry out their legally-mandated roles, according to a critical independent audit report released Aug. 28.
As recently as April 2013, the county treasurer was unable to reconcile the general fund checking account to the general ledger, the Ithaca accounting firm Ciaschi, Dietershagen, Little, Mickelson & Co. reported.
Faced with glaring discrepancies in year-end 2012 accounts that had to be balanced, county officials asked the audit firm to step in and reconcile them. Ciaschi, Dietershagen complied, but the process was laborious and costly to the county.
Schuyler County’s failure to provide balanced accounts dates back several years and was a major issue in the hotly contested November 2011 election for county treasurer.
In that race, Whyman unseated eight-year incumbent Margaret E. Starbuck, who ran on the Conservative line after losing the Republican primary to Whyman in September 2011. Starbuck had worked in the treasurer’s office since 1995 and first won election as county treasurer in 2003.
Whyman was a political newcomer with 30 years of experience as a financial analyst for Dresser Rand in Painted Post. During the 2011 campaign he acknowledged that if elected he would need training in municipal accounting.
The recent audit report underscored the challenge Whyman has faced in switching from corporate to municipal accounting.
“It is our opinion that management has not demonstrated the knowledge and ability to prepare such financial statements,” the Ciaschi, Dietershagen report stated. “We recommend the county consider providing training in municipal accounting and internal controls for all treasurer office personnel or consider hiring an accounting consultant to prepare the county’s financial statements.”
Asked in an interview if he considered the auditor’s assessment to be fair, Whyman said: “Sort of...."
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