After declaring fellow Financial Advisory Committee member Robert Worthen had no business, as a non-lawyer, in determining whether a law had been broken, Joe Dike stated he (and by implication, the rest of the FAC) believed that County Auditor William Tye has been complying with state law regarding reports to Commissioners Court.
The evidence seems to contradict Dike’s position.
Worthen’s report stated that many county offices were not complying with state law regarding monthly and annual reports to the Court. When asked for an example, he read from Texas Local Government Code Section 114.022, linked below and quoted here in full:
Sec. 114.022. COUNTY ANNUAL FINANCIAL EXHIBIT.
(a) The county auditor or, in a county that does not have a county auditor, the county treasurer immediately after the first regular term of the commissioners court in the year shall publish an exhibit that shows the aggregate amount paid from each fund for the four preceding quarters and the balance to the debit or credit of each fund. The exhibit must also list:
(1) the amount of the county indebtedness;
(2) the respective dates of accrual of that indebtedness;
(3) to whom the debt is owed;
(4) the reason for the debt; and
(5) the amount to the debit or credit of each officer or other person with whom an account is kept in the county finance records.
(b) The county official designated by Subsection (a) shall publish the exhibit once in a weekly newspaper that is published in the county. The commissioners court shall order the payment of the publication costs from the general fund of the county. If no paper is published in the county, the county official shall post a copy of the exhibit in each commissioner’s precinct. One must be posted at the courthouse door, and one must be posted at public places in each of the other three commissioners’ precincts.
(c) A county publishing monthly financial reports under Section 114.023 that publishes its comprehensive annual financial report on its Internet website is not required to publish an exhibit under this section.
Dike, a CPA, insisted that the annual audit of the county’s financial statement fulfilled these requirements, and stated, “This is just… this is ridiculous. This is all political. This is all [gesturing at Worthen] crap.” (A quick examination of the document, linked below, shows that only the first item is included.)
County Judge Sterling Lacy pointed out that the audit is typically released in March, about halfway through the fiscal year, whereas the information itemized in 114.022 is required shortly after the beginning of the fiscal year.
The County Auditor is required to file both monthly and annual reports:
Sec. 114.025. COUNTY AUDITOR’S MONTHLY AND ANNUAL REPORTS TO COMMISSIONERS COURT AND DISTRICT JUDGES.
(a) The county auditor shall make monthly and annual reports to the commissioners court and to the district judges of the county. Each report must show:
(1) the aggregate amounts received and disbursed from each county fund;
(2) the condition of each account on the books;
(3) the amount of county, district, and school funds on deposit in the county depository;
(4) the amount of county bonded indebtedness and other indebtedness; and
(5) any other fact of interest, information, or suggestion that the auditor considers proper or that the court or district judges require.
(b) The annual report must include a record of all transactions made during a calendar year. The auditor shall file the annual report at a regular or special term of the commissioners court held during the month of April of the following year. The auditor shall file a copy of the report with the district judges of the county.
(c) At the time the annual audit is delivered to the commissioners court and the district judges, the auditor shall send to the bonding company of each district, county, and precinct officer a report indicating the condition of that person’s office.
A monthly report is also required from the County Treasurer:
Sec. 114.026. COUNTY TREASURER’S REPORT TO COMMISSIONERS COURT AT REGULAR TERM.
(a) At least once a month at a regular term of the commissioners court, the county treasurer shall make a detailed report of:
(1) money received and disbursed;
(2) debts due to and owed by the county; and
(3) all other proceedings in the treasurer’s office.
(b) At least once a month at a regular term of the commissioners court, the county treasurer shall exhibit the books and accounts of the treasurer’s office for the inspection of the court and shall submit the vouchers relating to the books and accounts for audit and approval.
(c) After the commissioners court has compared and examined the treasurer’s report and has determined that the report is correct, the court shall enter an order in its minutes approving the report. The order must separately state the amount received and paid from each fund since the county treasurer’s preceding report and any balance remaining in the treasurer’s custody. The court shall properly credit the treasurer’s accounts.
(d) Before the adjournment of a regular term of the commissioners court, the county judge and each county commissioner shall give an affidavit stating that the requirements of Subsection (c) have been met at that term. The affidavit must state the amount of the cash and other assets that are in the custody of the county treasurer at the time of the examination. The affidavits must be filed with the county clerk and must be recorded in the minutes of the court for the term in which the affidavits are filed. The affidavits must be published once in a newspaper published in the county if there is such a newspaper or, if the county has an Internet website, on the county’s website.
The auditor and treasurer aren’t the only county officials required to report to the Court each month:
Sec. 114.044. REPORT TO COMMISSIONERS COURT AT REGULAR TERM BY OFFICER WHO COLLECTS FINES, JUDGMENTS, OR JURY FEES.
(a) Each district clerk, county clerk, county judge, county treasurer, sheriff, district attorney, county attorney, constable, or justice of the peace who collects or handles any money for the use of the county shall make a full report at least once a month at a regular term to the commissioners court on all fines imposed and collected, all judgments rendered and collected for the use of the county, and all jury fees collected by the respective courts in favor of or for the use of the county and, at the time of the report, shall present the receipts and vouchers that show the disposition of the money, fines, or judgments.
(b) Each report must fully state:
(1) the name of the person fined and the amount of the fine or the name of the person against whom judgment was rendered and the amount of the judgment;
(2) the style, number, and date of each case in which a fine was imposed or a judgment rendered; or
(3) the amount of the jury fees collected, the style and number of the case in which each jury fee was collected, and the name of the person from whom the fee was collected.
(c) The court shall carefully examine the reports, receipts, and vouchers. If the court finds them to be correct, the court shall direct the county clerk to enter the information in the county finance records. If they are found to be incorrect, the court shall summon before the court the officer making the report and shall have corrections made. The reports, receipts, and vouchers shall be filed in the county clerk’s office.
And apparently, not just county officials have responsibilities to the Court:
Sec. 116.117. STATEMENTS OF ACCOUNT. A depository shall make a detailed monthly statement to the commissioners court at each regular term of the court. The statement must show the daily balance credited to each of the funds on deposit. [At the beginning of Chapter 116, it is made apparent that “depository” refers to any financial institution “that holds demand deposits, not exceeding the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s limit, of a district, county, or precinct officer.”]
One can’t avoid the notion that, had these legal requirements been followed, the Court wouldn’t have been caught off-guard by the “missing”$3.4 million a few months ago.
One wonders how long it has been since these reports were made to the Court. Joe Dike asked Judge Lacy, “Did you ask for any of this information? Did you ask for it? Do you even talk to William? [with finger quotes] Politics….” Worthen responded, “It doesn’t have to be asked for. It’s required by law.” Dike retorted, “I don’t trust your interpretation of the law, Robert.” Worthen laughed and said, “Well, you can not trust what you want to, but it’s in black and white.”
That begs the question as to how many other counties in Texas face similar issues in under-reporting.
A bigger question is raised, however:
Why didn’t the Financial Advisory Committee report this sooner? If Worthen hadn’t brought it up, would they have ever mentioned it?
Not long after the creation of the FAC, chairman Mike Sandefur announced intentions to help the Court establish regular agenda items that would lead to better budgeting. Why didn’t they immediately take whatever steps necessary to find out what was required by law? And why, now that Worthen has pointed out the legal requirements, does the rest of the FAC, according to Dike, disagree “with most of what [Worthen] said,” and suggest to the Court that “the best thing you can do with what he said is just forget it, because a lot of it is wrong”?
Later, Dike went so far as to question Worthen’s intelligence in an attempt to discredit him. Why is it so important to the FAC that fundamental (and legally required) accounting practices be ignored?
When Steve Lacy made his presentation in July about the Court’s lack of “accurate, factual financial information,” County Legal Advisor Carol Dalby said that the district judges, who appoint the county auditor, have confidence in him. I emailed the district judges on two separate occasions, asking for clarification on Dalby’s statement, but never received a reply. However, last week the district judges – Leon Pesek, Ralph Burgess, and Bobby Lockhart – unanimously praised Tye for his performance and re-appointed him for another two-year term.
So, to summarize: the county auditor and county treasurer are legally required to provide the Court with detailed monthly and annual reports, but neither (most of) the Financial Advisory Committee nor the district judges think that is important.
It’s a short video – watch it, and tell us what you think.