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Monday, May 16, 2011

East Bank City Halls Day To Day Operation In Disarray For Years

Missing Money - Inadequate Bookkeeping - Secret Cash Box - Numerous Law Suites – Police Abuse And More
"The entire filing system was totally unorganized. Actually, there wasn't a system. Things were just thrown in drawers or boxes and had been done that way for years. The water records in the computer were not updated with proper addresses or names."
According to official audits conducted by the State in recent years for the town of East Bank… “We were unable to obtain sufficient competent evidence supporting the financial activities of the Municipality of East Bank, West Virginia, nor were we able to satisfy ourselves as to the financial activities through other auditing procedures.”

They also report that East Bank has had no true process or control to be able to initiate, authorize, record, process or report financial data reliably in accordance with generally accepted accounting practices. “We consider the deficiencies described in the accompanying Schedule of Findings and Responses to be significant deficiencies in internal control over financial reporting.”

In short, the Auditor noted in just the 2008 audit alone, that East Bank actually violated state statutes for failing in areas including;

1) Keeping accurate Water/Utility records or payments and or deposits.

2) Incurring unauthorized obligations involving the expenditures of future levies funds by obtaining bank loans because of poor cash flows.

3) Failed to prepare accurate financial statements in a timely fashion as prescribed by law.

4) Failed to ensure that all monies collected were deposited into the municipal treasury.

5) Authorized expenditures in excess of $40,000 for unauthorized purposes.

6) Failed to maintain proper an accurate municipal court docket and or an accurate record of the disposition of all traffic citation issued.

In Layman Terms

An inside source in East Banks recent town government overhaul contacted us and agreed to speak under anonymity to explain what was occurring in the cities day to day operation. As of this date, this source believes that most of the problems have been corrected over the past 7 months after the town hired independent and outside services to correct the problems.

But, says there is no guarantee things will remain in good sound order. “It took 15 to 20 years to run this town in the ground, who knows what will happen over the next years.”

Inside The Office

“When you first walked into the town hall office you saw right off that the appearance itself was just filthy! Files and junk sitting everywhere. There were water receipts and water bills strewn all over the office, stacks and stacks of paperwork. Files were full of papers, but not in any particular order. The filing system itself was virtually non-existent. I've never seen an office in this condition, let alone ever worked on one that looked like this.”

“No paperwork trail for anything. Hand written system for all checks and payables. Bank statements not balanced. The girls in the office kept hand written reports in reference to the town’s bank accounts. The accountant didn't do it. The only type of financial statements given to council members were the handwritten reports the girls gave which was also nothing more than check amounts and payee, starting and ending balances which weren’t correct most of the time.”

When bank deposits weren’t correct… “The bank would call the office and they would take whatever was short to the bank. They took it out of the ‘cash box’ that had almost $3k in it. The ladies in the office would not allow the Recorder (or anyone else) to see what or how much was inside the cash box. But, from time to time staff would allegedly take money out to buy sandwiches for lunch.”

When asked why the state auditors couldn’t locate older records from the town to compare with current ones?..."part of the reason may be that Chuck (Mayor) allowed someone to burn some city records. Don't know if anyone knew how old they were or what they were.”

Timecards weren’t even being used, but are being used now. But, “nobody really uses them correctly.”

How did the town council members ever know what was really going on in the office? “Some would literally sneak into the office after hours and rummage through desk drawers, files and other records.”

The Water Department Records System

“The entire filing system was totally unorganized. Actually, there wasn't a system. Things were just thrown in drawers or boxes and had been done that way for years. The water records in the computer were not updated with proper customer addresses or names.”

The town did have an upgraded version of the billing system but no one knew how to install it. “Some people complained that they did not get water bills for months. Some bills were too high; others too low. Thousands of dollars are unaccounted for with no paper trail.

“The ladies in the office had the upgrades, but it was never installed nor was the system ever backed up. In fact, the system they used could not be backed up. It just wouldn't do it.” According to this same source, some people were allowed to pay part of their bills and the balances written off.

Another major accounting problem was the fact that former office staff did not use the water system for collecting and recording water deposits. “There is a place to put those in, but it wasn't done. The water deposit money was NEVER accounted for and was NOT accurate.”

Recently, the town hired new office staff, updated their water billing records and installed a new computer system to correct all of the problems, including a way to record water deposits.

Court Records And Police Department

According to the state auditor, the Town Of East Bank… “Failed to maintain proper an accurate municipal court docket and or an accurate record of the disposition of all traffic citation issued.” They also failed to pay the state for police training and or their fees to the Treasurer for the “Regional Jail and Prison Development Fund.”

Reportedly, the town hasn’t held court for up to a year. Why? The mayor, Charles Blair is also the municipal court judge. State records show that he has not kept up his year to year mandatory ongoing training governed by law, so there hasn’t been an actual judge or court for some time. At the time, the chief of polices wife was the towns court clerk. (which itself could be a conflict)

The town police department is understaffed and any real visible police presence is nil. In fact, our source stated that the local Postmaster has had to call city hall to have someone come to empty the police department’s mail box because it is full.

Then there are the numerous civil law suites that have been filed against the town by its own employees. At least 5 that involve the East Bank Police Department and Officers.

Town Recorder William Thompson filed suit against the Town of East Bank and former officer Steve Smith. In his complaint, Thompson alleges that Smith filed criminal charges against him in retaliation for helping to prove Smith falsely arrested another man two years ago for allegedly stealing his residential water from the town. Thompson was actually arrested for disorderly conduct, obstructing, intimidation and retaliation against a police officer.

Officer Smith made the arrest despite the fact the accused had a receipt showing he paid the town for the water. Records show three months later the charges were dismissed due to Smith's inability to provide facts to support them.

Then in 2009, former Chief of Police Jess Inclenrock and his wife, Court Clerk Christy Inclenrock, along with James R. Carte Jr. and Steven W. Smith filed suit against the Town of East Bank. In their complaints filed in Kanawha Circuit Court, all four allege that they were either fired or had their hours reduced in retaliation for criminal charges Smith pressed against town recorder William Thompson.

Christy Inclenrock claims that she was terminated as court clerk because the number traffic citations had decreased.

And, if all that’s not strange enough, during one town hall meeting council allowed (and then regretted it later) Candace White to speak. She alleged that several months earlier, then Officer Smith improperly shocked her with his Taser. WHY??

According to her story, Smith had stopped by White's mother's home; while he was there, she asked what it was like to be tazed because she was interested in purchasing one for self-defense. After explaining that a less-than-full charge could be compared to a bee sting, Smith obliged White and went ahead and tazed her. But, “at her request and without complaint.”

In Closing

It’s just a mess…. Hopefully with the recent change in procedures and hiring of new staff, East Bank WV will be able to move forward once again.

Who is to blame for everything that has gone array in East Bank over the years? According to our source, “The former office staff who worked there were part of the blame, but the mayor has a duty to know the business of the town. He never checked on anything or required any checks and balances. The accountant at that time lived in Clarksburg and never attended a meeting or gave reports.”

A New Possible Problem with the election comming in June of this year.

At the writing of this story, another source close to the towns election next month says that there are names of people on the current list of voters that do not live in East Bank. And, Kanawha County Clerk Vera McCormick has been made aware of the problem. She has been asked to look into the allegations and has assured towns people that any potential problem will be addressed by her office.

End Of Story

Jack Swint - Publisher
WV News 2011
(304) 982-7024

Links Below...

East Bank Audits 2004 to 2008

(click on above link then type in “East Bank” click on Search Button)

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