Monday, January 23, 2012

Replace all TARTA board members

The Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority is in trouble again with the state auditor - this time because their 2010 fiscal year is "unauditable."

You'll remember last May when a state audit revealed that TARTA spent tax dollars illegally. The auditor issued findings for recovery against James Gee (personally) and TARTA for using public dollars to fund their tax levy campaign.

Now we learn that TARTA has failed to turn over records so their 2010 books can be audited.

A Jan. 20th press release from Dave Yost, State Auditor, says:

As a result of inadequate financial records, Auditor of State Dave Yost placed the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA) on the “unauditable” list.

“Unavailable records leave unanswered questions,” Auditor Yost said. “This delay is deeply troubling.”

During the course of the regular financial audit of TARTA for the period January 1, 2010 through December 31, 2010, the Auditor of State’s office determined that the condition of the authority’s financial records were not adequate to complete the audit. Financial audits are usually completed within six months of the end of the entity’s fiscal year. In a letter to TARTA, the Auditor of State’s office provided a list of records required to complete the audit. For example, the authority must still provide reconciliation information, as well as lists of purchases and disposals of fixed assets.

Within 90 days of the date of the letter, TARTA must revise its financial records and provide the necessary data. Failure to bring records to an auditable condition may result in legal action, including the possibility of the attorney general issuing a subpoena to the comptroller and general manager to explain the condition of records. The attorney general may also file suit to compel the comptroller and general manager to prepare and/or produce the required information.

The Auditor of State’s Local Government Section (LGS) is now available to help TARTA reconstruct their records.

Gee told the local daily paper that the list of missing items is "minor." I've requested from the State Auditor the list as well as the letter and will share them with you upon receipt. We'll see just how 'minor' they are.

My question is why it's taken so long for anyone to know there was a problem? The audit is over six months past the normal completion time.

TARTA is managed by James Gee. But he reports to a board of trustees made up of representatives from the jurisdictions in the TARTA service area - though the board is dominated by Toledoans.

The most current list of board members I could find show these individuals and the jurisdictions they are supposed to be representing:

* James Bohn (President), Sylvania Township
* Lori Brodie, Village of Waterville
* Brian Fitch, City of Toledo
* Francis Frey, City of Maumee
* Bonita Johnson (Vice President), City of Toledo
* Jack Murphy, City of Toledo
* Shelly Papenfuse, City of Toledo
* Steven Pecsenye, City of Toledo
* Tom Ramsdell, City of Sylvania
* Kevin Rantanen, City of Perrysburg
* Harold Salverda, City of Toledo
* Barbara Sperr, City of Toledo
* Anthony Szilagye, City of Rossford
* Dee Talmage, Village of Ottawa Hills
* Robert Vasquez, City of Toledo
* Clifford Wright, City of Toledo

So why haven't any of these board members - who are supposed to be watching out for the best interests of their jurisdiction - bothered to mention to anyone that TARTA was having trouble producing financial records from 2010?

Why haven't these individuals reported back to their jurisdictions that an "unauditable" designation was forthcoming from the State Auditor? Such a determination never comes as a surprise, as it requires extensive communications and coordination before ever being considered, much less issued.

Is there no one on the board who realizes that they are responsible directly to the taxpayers and that the taxpayers should have had some warning of the problems?

Is it possible that they didn't know? If so, it means that they're not doing their job to ask where the 2010 audit report is - and/or it means that James Gee is keeping information from them.

If the latter is true, Gee needs to be removed immediately. But had I been a board member I would have insisted he be removed after being found personally liable for the illegally spent tax dollars.

These board members have failed in their basic duty: oversight of the agency. Furthermore, their failure to share the pending problems with their appointing authority indicates a lack of accountability to the people they're supposed to be representing.

They are placed on the board to ensure that the agency is serving the jurisdictions in a fiscally prudent and responsible manner. When the agency cannot be audited because it cannot produce records, it is certainly not being fiscally prudent nor responsible.

Toledo City Council and the other jurisdictional appointing authorities should call these representatives in at a public meeting to explain themselves - then remove them.

The entire board of trustees needs to be replaced with individuals who are going to be accountable to the taxpayers and who are willing to provide the oversight this agency so desperately lacks.


Mad Jack said...

I don't believe the word 'unauditable' exists in the English language. I find no evidence of it in any of the dictionaries I consulted, which makes it an invention of the originator, Dave Yost. Maybe it'll catch on, but I'm not holding my breath.

You know, just when things cannot possibly get any worse in the gravel pit, something like this happens. TARTA fails to supply sufficient financial records for a State audit, either because they don't exist, can't be found or very possibly out of spite for some fancied personal insult. Perhaps there are other reasons.

Applying Mad Jack's razor, I think it's most likely that moral turpitude took advantage of incompetence while opportunistic greed swiped a few shekels for himself. I also think the real problem is the smart one (and there is likely only one) will get away with wrongdoing and never be suspected. Now all we have to do is put names on the players.

Nice catch, Maggie. Thanks for writing this one.

Maggie Thurber said...

Mad Jack -

"unauditable" is a term the state auditor's office has used for a number of years, though I agree with you that you probably won't find it in a dictionary.

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