Conway Chief Financial Officer Robin Scott resigned amid budget problems created largely through the inaccuracy of reserve fund estimates provided by her department, it was announced Saturday afternoon.
An e-mail from Mayor Tab Townsell to city aldermen and department heads states that Scott completed the January financial report "as well as a series of other reports which give a more complete and accurate view of the city’s (finances) than you have received in the past."
But the numbers Scott compiled before her resignation won’t be the final word on the city’s financial status, according to Townsell, who states in his e-mail that he has "been in contact with Randy Milligan of Thomas & Thomas accounting firm about the possibility of his firm conducting a special outside audit of our city’s finances."
Aldermen including Mark Vaught and Mary Smith have sought a legislative audit, but Townsell said by phone that a legislative audit "might not happen quick enough" to fill the brief outlined in his e-mail as "confirmation of our current financial position."
"Regardless whether we use Thomas & Thomas, another accounting firm arrived at through an RFP process, or legislative audit, I feel it is imperative to have a third outside party — even outside our current auditors — to look at our city’s finances," Townsell states in the e-mail. "I believe we need confirmation of our current financial position — our current numbers that is — to have our confidence and the confidence of the public at large restored in our city’s finances. I would also wish to have them look at our processes, the reports that are generated and our personnel and their division of duties."
Townsell said that Scott had been employed as CFO for about seven years, and that prior to this year, his administration had found no reason to question her capabilities.
"We have been getting awards from the Government Finance Officer’s Association for both our reporting and our budget regularly since (Scott) came on-board," Townsell said. "Those are the first awards from that organization that we’ve ever received, and it was under her watch that we received them.
Townsell said that Scott had recently begun a teaching job at Hendrix College, and that she was working at Hendrix during some City Hall business hours.
Scott had been given "the ability to have flexible hours," Townsell said, and she has over past several months "been putting in the hours to get the job done."
Townsell’s e-mail states that he will meet with city financial staff on Monday morning "to make interim arrangements while we launch a search for a new CFO."
On Tuesday, according to his e-mail, Townsell will begin the 6:30 p.m. Conway City Council Meeting with an explanation of the reserve miscalculation that led to it being reduced to an inappropriately low level.
He will also ask the council to consider approving a five-year city loan to pay for items including the outfitting of new Conway Police Department patrol cars, the value of a Conway Fire Department fire truck now rededicated to help mend the general fund reserve shortfall and a $1.5 million automated recyclables sorting machine — all of which had been approved to be paid out of the sanitation reserve fund.
"I will also ask you authorize the city to pursue five-year financing for the automatic recycling separator and/or police cars though you have options with police cars," Townsell’s e-mail states. "Financing this major purchase and possibly police cars is required in my opinion to conserve cash in the city’s accounts. Further, I will ask you to make a decision about how to proceed with a third party audit. Randy Milligan of Thomas & Thomas will be present and will have more information about his company.
"I am sorry for all the turmoil the past two weeks has caused you and the public," the e-mail continues. "I am especially sorry that this series of financial revelations concerning mistakes by my administration has sullied the reputation of our fine city, which is otherwise weathering the current economic climate as well as any other large city in the state. I take full responsibility for those mistakes as I also take full responsibility, with the advice and direction of the City Council, for correcting those mistakes. I am committed to righting our financial position in the weeks, months and years to come."
(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached at 505-1238 or by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit.)