The 2020 audit report for the City of New Roads urged greater oversight of city vehicles, including justifiable reason for use outside the local area.

The report brought before the City Council during Tuesday night’s meeting by New Roads CPA John L. Morrison III, of Major, Morrison & David, also recommended a more diligent approach to collection of overdue payments in its “accounts payable” ledger.

On the use of city vehicles, Morrison recommended the use of GPS or mileage logs to monitor the vehicle. Failure to do that will draw public complaints and say the mayor has used a vehicle outside the city limits.

“He’s doing that now,” Councilman Kurt Kellerman said.

The public document of the city audit cited the policy as “silent with regards to the vehicle used by the mayor. Nor are any vehicle logs on his use are available.”

The lack of additional documentation on overtime reports for the reason and necessity of providing security for the mayor leads to questions if the time spent was all for city business purposes, as listed on Page 74 of the audit report.

The “questioned costs” amount to $20,516.08. It also questioned this not all timesheets and/or leave slips were signed by employees and/or supervisors.

“Some didn’t have supervisor signatures; some employees didn’t sign,” Morrison told the council. “Every time sheet needs to be approved by the employees. They need to sign … If not, you don’t know whether they worked.”

The city responded in the document that “Management of the city will review current documentation for overtime practices and timesheets. Documentation enhancements will include purpose of overtime and approval by employee supervisors, where applicable.”

The council attempted to pass an ordinance last month to prohibit use of city vehicles without documentation.

Dukes vetoed the ordinance immediately after the vote at the Sept. 7 meeting, deeming it “unnecessary and un-American.”

An override attempt failed Sept. 21 when council members Vernell Davis, and Joy Nelson abstained.

Mayor Pro-Tem Theron Smith, Kellerman and Councilman Kirk “Clipper” White voted in favor of the ordinance and opposed the override, which failed because it required a 4-1 vote.

White told Morrison the council took the recommended steps and asked what council members should do next.

He also asked about liability by council members who oppose such ordinances.

“We can recommend it if we come in again after recommendation, and if we don’t see what we need to see, we can cite it as a finding again,” Morrison said.

“And if it becomes abusive, more than likely we won’t be the only ones coming in to look at it.”

He said the city could make a direct request to Louisiana Legislative Auditor Mike Waguespack.

Audits of public bodies are sent to Waguespack’s office, in accordance with state law.

White asked if the council was duty-bound to put measures in place that would put more oversight on use of city vehicles.

“I’m not really sure where it would go from a legal standpoint,” Morrison replied. “I’m not an attorney.”

Davis asked what would happen if problems with city vehicles stopped altogether.

“It would be great … I think from a public perception if you use a vehicle outside of your local area, you should document it,” Morrison replied.

As a CPA for a private entity, Morrison said he does not have a company vehicle, but he must submit mileage reports for compensation of fuel costs.  

“You have to look at a governmental entity the same way you would look at a private entity – it has to be documented,” he said.

On accounts receivable, Morrison urged the city to focus on reduction on delinquent utility accounts.

“I know we got into period of COVID and relaxation of collection, and even though COVID-19 is still going on, you have to do some collecting because that’s where a lot of your revenue comes from,” he said. “If not, you’ll find yourself in a cash-flow crunch.”

The city ended the fiscal year with a fund balance of $810,203, an increase of $26,491 in comparison with the prior year.

The unassigned fund balance in the general fund, $652,940, is available for spending at the government’s discretion, according to the audit.

Total debt for the city decreased by $315,000, as listed in the audit.

The city’s general fund revenue increased 11.8 percent in comparison to 2019, while expenditures increased by approximately 8.2 percent.

It allowed for a decrease in proprietary funds over prior year amounts of $392,334.

Morrison commended the city for the refinancing of bonds on long-term debt at a lower rate, down from 4 percent to 2.35 percent.

“It has a cost-saving over the term, and the good thing is you didn’t extend it on the life of it,” he said. “If you can get to position you pay off debt, it frees off cash flow.”