02/05/08 — Pikeville moves to correct financial violations

View Archive

Pikeville moves to correct financial violations

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on February 5, 2008 1:58 PM

PIKEVILLE -- Pikeville's town board moved Monday to hire a part-time employee to help address three finance practices found to be in violation of state law.

By unanimous vote, the board approved the hiring of a worker who will help with separation of duties in financial practices, which is often a problem in small towns.

A letter from the N.C. Treasurer's Office -- which oversees the Local Government Commission -- cited Pikeville with violating three state statutes.

Mayor Herbert Sieger said he and an unnamed acquaintance were discouraged by a story in Monday's News-Argus, describing the letter and its recommendations.

"A gentleman came to my house tonight and said 'I read the article in the paper, and it seems like it's much ado about nothing. It's about verbiage, headlines, to make it look good and make the town look bad,'" Sieger said.

The mayor wrote a letter that he read aloud to those in attendance. He addressed a pre-audit certificate, a stamp or print which marks documents with the language "This disbursement has been approved as required by the Local Government Budget and Fiscal Control Act."

Without the stamp, checks and other financial implements are not enforceable and easily challenged in court, according to public law professor David Lawrence of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"The pre-audit certificate consists of a stamp which is used on all of our checks," the mayor's letter reads in part.

The mayor said finance officer and Commissioner Al Greene oversee finances to make sure that enough money is in place for transactions.

However, state officials said Greene's activities as finance office were not covered by enough fidelity bond insurance if fraud were to occur. And the letter from the N.C. Treasurer's Office said Greene was required to have a $50,000 fidelity bond. He had only a $10,000 bond.

"The bond has now been raised to $50,000," Sieger said in his letter.

The third infraction the town was cited for was allowing Town Clerk Kathie Fields to be appointed to the position of tax collector without written permission of the secretary of the Local Government Commis-sion. State law prohibits combining the two potentially conflicting positions without written permission.

Sieger's letter said Pikeville's local ordinances designate the clerk to perform the duties of tax collector. But he said the town will comply with the state requirement.

"Yet, to be in compliance with the statute, we will vote tonight to petition Wayne County to act as the tax collector for the town of Pikeville," Sieger said.

That action was approved by unanimous vote of the town board.

Wayne County will now handle all of Pikeville's tax collection duties, and will charge 1.75 percent of the total, Sieger said.

"We can't do it ourselves for that," the mayor said.

Commissioner Vance Greeson lamented that "we're just sending our Wayne County job to Charlotte, but that's OK," referring to a tax processing center located in that city.

In other business, the town board approved the expenditure of $2,000 from the electric billing fund for the purchase of a computer.

Computer interfaces in the town's programs allow only one user at time, town auditor Gary Pitman said.

Commissioner Lyman Gallo-way said having two computers would allow simultaneous activity among office staff.

"If one (person is) ... working on the computer, then the other one's got to sit there and wait," Galloway said. "We're trying to get the same programs on the computer so we can get two people to work on it at one time."