In the absence of Chairman Michael DesRosier, Vice Chairman Tom McKay tabled all items on the Dec. 26 Glacier County Commissioners’ agenda until the Commissioners meet next on Jan. 7, 2020. Among the items tabled was the resolution setting the annual salaries for elected officials for fiscal year 2019-20, which began back on July 1, 2019.
Commissioners McKay, John Overcast and Treasurer Don Wilson fielded several questions during the public comment portion of the meeting relating to Glacier County’s financial position, specifically the lack of monthly cash reports, balanced cash reconciliations and payments to Glacier County that are being withheld from the State of Montana.
On the issue of monthly cash reports, or cash reconciliations, Commissioner Overcast said, “We’re supposed to be getting them on the 20th of each month.”
Commissioner McKay said he has “no idea when the last cash report was okay” nor did he know when the monthly cash reconciliations requested by the Department of Administration (DOA) “will be ready.”
Commissioner McKay asked Treasurer Don Wilson if he is sending in bank reconciliations to the DOA and Wilson replied, “every month.”
When asked to confirm Wilson’s claim, the DOA responded:
“While the County has submitted some, (but not all) monthly cash reconciliations, none of the submissions were accepted for the following reasons:
•None were fully reconciled
•Some included conflicting results
•Some were not fully supported with the necessary bank statements or other supporting documentation.”
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The Glacier County Commissioners were notified in a letter dated July 31 and then again in a letter dated Oct. 25, the DOA would withhold financial assistance and certain payments until the County is able to provide reconciled bank statements. The withholding of payments went into effect Oct. 25, 2019.
According to Commissioner McKay, “We’ve jumped through all the hoops” the Department of Administrations has required, so it is “confusing and upsetting to me they’re not releasing the money…there’s no reason at all for it.”
When asked to respond to McKay’s statement, DOA replied:
“While we recognize the progress the County has made over the past year, they are still in an unfavorable financial situation, as evidenced by the many repeat audit findings spanning FY 2015, FY 2016, FY2017 and FY 2018, as well as a lack of implementation of corrective measures.
Because the County must effectively operate and properly safeguard public assets, it is imperative the County provide acceptable documents to demonstrate that it is continually:
1. Reconciling cash
2. Monitoring and adjusting the budget
3. Monitoring and adjusting its cash deficit recovery plan
To date, we have not received acceptable documents to show that the County has implemented these corrective measures.”
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Wilson stated, “The State is withholding a bunch of money because they’re (pause) rats. They have everything…they’re current and we’re really close to being completely reconciled. I’ve emailed the state 43,000 documents to date.”
Responding to Wilson’s remark, DOA officials provided three letters sent to Glacier County officials addressing the lack of reconciled cash and bank statements. The letters address the lack of accurate information being provided to DOA and the County’s failure to implement its Corrective Action Plans for the FY 2015-16 audits and FY 2017-18 audits. The audits were performed by two outside auditing firms, Anderson Bros. CPAs, PA, based in Idaho Falls, Idaho and WIPFLI/Joseph Eve, CPAs and Consultants, with offices in Great Falls.
The most recent letter to Treasurer Wilson was from Budget Director Tom Livers on Nov. 20 and cc’d to Gov. Steve Bullock.
“The County has yet to provide accurate cash reconciliation information…Approximately eight months has expired between the time the department conditionally accepted the County’s plan promising in part accurate cash reconciliations (February 22) and the letter notifying the County of the withholding (of payments) (Oct.25).”
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Wilson commented at the Dec. 26 meeting, “I have two issues with DOA. I’m not convinced they are capable of coming in or have the legal right to come in.” He stated, “The County is struggling, are you adding to the problem by withholding payments?”
Ironically, the Nov. 20 letter addressed to Wilson was in his response to an email he sent asking DOA officials “what parts of MCA require that financial assistance be withheld” from Glacier County.
Livers specifically responded to Wilson’s question, citing MCA 2-7-515(3) and Administrative Rules of Montana (ARM) 2.4.409(12), not once, but twice in the letter addressed to Wilson.
Livers pointed out to Wilson MCA 2-7-515(3) mandates DOA withhold payments for failure of a County to “resolve findings or implement corrective measures in accordance with the Department of Administration’s rules.” And ARM 2.4.409(12) allows the DOA to withhold payments of financial assistance “pending receipt of an acceptable response or corrective action plan” to the findings of an audit.
According to Livers’ letter to Wilson, the “lengthy time interval” afforded the County to implement its Corrective Action Plans and the County’s inability, to date, to provide “accurate cash reconciliation information” resulted in DOA invoking MCA 2-7-515(3() and ARM 2.4.409(12).
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During the six-month period of May to October, 2019, the Department of Administration provided Glacier County with extensive training and technical assistance in several areas. Approximately 150 hours of training and assistance was provided at no cost to Glacier County.
The DOA’s six-month “technical assistance plan” for Glacier County included the following areas of focus:
•Budget, cash reserves and tax reconciliation.
•Audit process and expectations.
•Corrective measures to FY 2018-18 audit report, planning and goal setting.
•Mill levies, budget process status update.
•Fiscal year-end closing and annual financial reporting.
•Tax bills and basics of fund accounting.