Nepotism cited in Earle audit

EARLE (Evening Times) - There was good news and bad news in the legislative audit for Earle.

The good news is that auditors found no fiscal or financial irregularities. The bad news is that auditors did find a couple of accounting violations.

"This was a full-blown audit," said Mayor Otis Davis. "There is no money missing, and the best thing is that I didn't have to go stand before 35 people at legislative audit."

Clerk Cynthia Conner said auditors faulted the city for paying for various automobile repairs and maintenance to a business owned by an alderman's spouse, and for a payment of $575 to an alderman's son for computer technology services - both of which were in conflict with Arkansas law that prohibits family members of alderman from doing business with the city.

The city council addressed the problem last September when it passed an ordinance prohibiting members of the council or their immediate family from doing business with the city.

Auditors also said the city violated the law by donating $500 to a non-profit organization.

Councilwoman Jimmie Barham was quick to take the blame for that.

Barham made a motion to donate the money to the school to buy suits so the children could be in the Little Gentleman's Club.

"I made those motions for one of those things," Barham said. "But I made many motions like that, and we have never had a full blown audit where they have ever have called us on a contribution to the school.

"I'm not saying they are picking on us," she continued. "We were wrong. But I did not know we were out of order on that because I know how many times we have bought baseball uniforms when a coach would say we really need some help. And we did. And we were never cited for it. I'm sorry it happened, but I was ignorant of the law because it has not been enforced or applied to us before."

The audit also noted that the police chief reported nine Glock pistols valued at $588 each, and three Glock pistols valued at $435 each, that were acquired in 2001 and 2004, were missing.

Connor said former Police Chief Walter Voyles reported the Glocks were stolen, but the guns were never removed from the city's asset list.

"They put it in NCIC. But they failed to let me know that those guns went missing and I still had it on my asset list," Conner said. "We just failed to taken them off our list. We have now taken it off our asset list."

Davis said overall it was a good audit.

"The report wasn't bad," Davis said. "It was a full-blown audit from the front door to the back. So it was quite natural that they were going to find something. But those things that they did find, they have been corrected. So I feel good about it."

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