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      10-13-06  

 

 

 

 

 

Montee questions legitimacy of Thomas' awards

by Dave Kinnamons
Landmark assistant editor

The manager for Susan Montee’s state auditor campaign and Siobhann Williams, the Democrat candidate for Platte County auditor, both this week raised questions about the legitimacy of Sandra Thomas, the current Platte County auditor, claiming credit for accounting excellence awards in Platte County the past nine years.

Additionally, Spence sharply criticized Thomas for five years of findings against Thomas and the Platte County auditor’s office, made by the county’s external auditor, which criticized Thomas for failing to reconcile the county’s cash and investment accounts. The five years’ of findings included 1999, 2000, 2003, 2004, and 2005.

The 2005 findings against Thomas, by external auditor Troutt, Beeman & Co., spoke directly to the $195,000 accounting discrepancy at Platte County, first reported by county treasurer, Bonnie Brown, this past July.

"Independent auditors repeatedly warned Thomas, in writing, to balance her accounts," Spence said on Monday.

Sandra Thomas, in her 12th year as Platte County auditor, won a narrow victory in the August primary to run as the Republican candidate for Missouri state auditor, to replace Claire McCaskill, who is running against Jim Talent for the U.S. Senate.

In her bid to become the next Missouri state auditor and on her campaign Web site, Thomas frequently highlights her nine instances of receiving the annual "Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Program," an award sponsored by the Government Finance Officers Association.

"Thomas bases her campaign on her status as an ‘award-winning CPA’ and claims that her office produces the award-winning reports. The fact is that she pays an outside auditor thousands of dollars every year to win this award and then claims credit,"claims Sean Spence, Montee’s campaign manager.

Siobhann Williams, who is a certified public accountant, pledged on Monday that, if elected as the next Platte County auditor, she will immediately end the practice of paying an outside auditor extra money to complete reports in a format specifically geared toward winning an award.

"These financial duties should be done in-house. That’s why it’s appropriate to have a CPA as the county auditor," Williams said.

"Platte County pays Troutt, Beeman & Co., of Harrisonville, its external auditor extra money, over and above its fee to perform the county’s annual external audit, to submit its annual report in the Government Finance Officers Association-suggested format specifically so Platte County may win the "Certificate of Achievement in Financial Reporting," Williams said on Tuesday.

Williams works in the finance division of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority.

Sandra Thomas referred all response to Jeff Roe, of Axiom Strategies, of Kansas City, a company performing communications work for the Thomas campaign.

Roe disagreed that it’s inappropriate for a county auditor to claim credit for a national accounting award in which the grading criteria were prepared by an outside auditor. Roe also blasted Susan Montee for her own accounting practices in Buchanan County, where Montee offices just 30 miles north of Thomas, who works in Platte City.

""Montee’s books don’t comply with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), so she can’t get a clean report in Buchanan County. There’s a reason why Susan Montee is not an award-winner. She is in the Flintstones' era of accounting right in Buchanan County. She can’t get her audits qualified," Roe told The Landmark on Wednesday.

Sean Spence in his statements on Monday backed up the respectability of the finance officers organization while simultaneously downplaying the significance of the accounting awards that Thomas frequently highlights.

"The certificate is issued as long as the county submits their financial reports and application according to the organization’s guidelines, regardless of any level of incompetence found by outside auditors," Spence said.

"The Government Finance Officers Association is a reputable organization, and their ‘Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Program’ is based solely on the presentation of information, rather than the quality of the content," Spence asserted on Monday.

 

 
 

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