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Natchez board reviews past financial mismanagement and corrective measures for the future
from Staff Reports - NEWS
January 30, 2018 -

By John Mott Coffey

NATCHEZ, Miss. – The 2016 financial audit report for the city of Natchez is replete with the words “errors” and “omissions” and “not accurate” as it describes how municipal officials managed and accounted for the money to operate the city.

However, changes have been made since that audited fiscal year ended September 2016. “I know for a fact we’ve made improvements,” said Alderman Dan Dillard.

The Board of Aldermen and Mayor Darryl Grennell met Monday with accountant Deanne Tanksley to review the annual audit of the city’s finances.

While it covers a 12-month period that ended more than a year ago, the newly completed audit gives city leaders an opportunity to review the past financial problems that plagued City Hall and highlight what they’ve been doing to correct those deficiencies.

Inept and poorly trained city clerks and a high turnover of staffers contributed to many inaccuracies, inconsistencies and unrecorded financial details for the mayor and Board of Aldermen as they oversaw a $28 million annual budget.

“The city’s management was making decisions without complete and accurate information available to them. Material errors were noted in many funds,” states the audit report.

The audit covers October 2015 through September 2016 -- the last nine months of former mayor Butch Brown’s tenure and the first three months of Grennell’s administration.

Tanksley and another outside certified public accountant – Wallace Collins – have spent the past many months helping city officials straighten up what Grennell called “financial chaos” when he took office in July 2016.

“It’s better than it has been and better than the last two years of Brown’s administration,” said Dillard.

Natchez had three different city clerks during the audited fiscal year: Donnie Holloway, who left office in June 2016 after serving 16 years; Wendy McClain, who was fired by aldermen in August 2016 for undisclosed violations of city policies; and Melissa Hawk, who resigned in January 2017 after only five months in a job the auditor said she was not sufficiently trained to do.

Megan Edmonds – after serving as interim city clerk the past year – was made permanent clerk in December by the Board of Aldermen, which has entrusted her with moving the city’s financial operations in the right direction by implementing the corrective measures recommended by Tanksley.

“The current city clerk is working on putting the appropriate systems in place,” states the auditor’s report.

“Hopefully, we have put a lot of those in place,” Grennell said.

Aldermen decided in 2014 to make the previously elected city clerk a position they appointed to ensure someone more competent could manage City Hall’s financial affairs, which have been plagued for several years by sloppy bookkeeping and cash shortfalls. | © 2014 | All Rights Reserved
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