The muddle in accounting at the Bill and Hillary National Airport that meant no checks could be cut for “quite a length of time,” L. Cotton Thomas & Co. partner Chad Miller said, were outlined to the full commission this morning by the auditing firm.
The audit says the accounting in airport’s general ledger, which was changed when new software was installed in 2011 and made more problematic with a software upgrade in 2012, “lacks sufficient clarity and detail to readily and clearly identify the transactions of the Airport.” The new software changed accounting codes and an upgrade that was supposed to integrate with the software in a way that would keep classifications separate did not. That meant that coding for transactions were changed twice over the course of a year. Auditors described their work as “cumbersome” because of the problems and said it is difficult to compare the latest numbers with those in 2011. They recommended that the airport examine its books carefully on a month-to-month basis to make sure that changes implemented to fix the problems are working.
The commission approved the report, but not until after Miller fielded questions from commissioners. Bob East noted that there were 40 pages of “account reversals” because items weren’t coded correctly, and both he and Tom Schueck asked whether the software, which the Thomas auditors said was geared toward manufacturing, was right for airport use. Executive Director Ron Mathieu said the software was chosen after presentations by “four or five” companies and that it was in use at other airports. Mathieu said that company that integrated the upgrade into the new software in 2012, causing more problems, has been at the airport “for weeks at a time” fixing problems and training airport staff to use the program. He said the vast majority of problems have been worked out.
Commissioner Wes Clark asked if the new software would allow the airport to reduce the number of employees in the finance department. Mathieu responded that the goal was not to reduce staff but to allow staff to better manage its procurement and find efficiencies that way. Commissioner Jesse Mason sought to cut off discussion, saying the audit already had been discussed in the finance committee of the board, that “there are no missing funds, no wrongdoing” and the board should not make a big deal out of it.
L. Cotton Thomas, the airport’s auditor for three decades, will not seek to win the airport’s business when it contract expires this summer, Mike Schaufele told the finance committee last week.
The board also voted to extend its contract with legal counsel Cross, Gunter, Witherspoon and Galchus for three years with one three-year extension available “at the discretion of the Executive Director,” but not after some debate on the process. Commissioner East questioned whether the board should give Mathieu the power to renew contracts on his own without board approval, and Schueck said he was “not comfortable” with forgoing a bidding process for the business. Mason said he didn’t understand the concern over the process, to which Chairman Kay Arnold said the commission is to abide by its rules. She asked Commissioner Virgil Miller to put together a committee to “get clarity” on the process. Schueck’s was the only no vote on the extension.
The firm also got a 2.6 percent raise, retained for $11,000 a month with an hourly rate of $195.