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County hires new auditing firm

Decatur County Commissioners have hired a new accounting firm with local ties to produce the annual audit of the county government’s financial statements.

By unanimous vote at their Tuesday morning meeting, commissioners selected Coastal CPAs of St. Simons Island, Ga., to perform the annual audit for the next three years. Coastal CPAs, a firm which includes former Bainbridge resident Ben Lee, submitted the lowest cost proposal of four firms: a total of $80,645 across three years.

Also submitting bids for the three-year auditing contract were CPA Bruce D. Mann of Bainbridge, $131,900; Fowler, Holley, Rambo and Stalvey, P.C., of Valdosta, Ga., $110,310; and Lanigan & Associates, P.C., of Thomasville, Ga., $103,370.

Commissioners and county officials discussed a couple of aspects about the four bids that were received.

County Commissioner Palmer Rich asked County Financial Director Carl Rowland whether he was aware of any connection between Lee—who was formerly the county’s financial consultant—and Perry Henry, who is the county’s current financial consultant.

According to Rowland and County Administrator Tom Patton, when Lee and his family moved to St. Simon’s Island, he sold his business property to Henry but took at least some of his clients with him.

Rowland said the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) has stated that it is inappropriate for a governmental body’s auditor to have a business relationship with its financial consultant.

“If they did have such a relationship, they could lose their [accountant’s] license,” Rowland explained to commissioners.

Other issues

The other issue concerning the auditors’ bids was the relatively wide range of the four bids’ costs.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Earl Perry said he, Commissioner Russell Smith, Rowland, Patton and Henry met twice concerning the auditing bids.

“We had concerns about the wide spread in the proposed costs,” Perry said. “We talked through the details and afterwards, I am convinced [Coastal CPAs] is the way to go.”

Commissioner Butch Mosely, who has interests in Glynn County, said he understood Coastal CPAs was a new firm that he believed could have bid low in an attempt to get some initial business.

Rowland remarked how the proposed bids’ annual costs were all lower than the approximately $50,000 to $60,000 Decatur County has previously paid for auditing services. He said he believes increased efficiency by county staff, a better computer accounting system and Henry’s assistance in preparing financial statements have reduced auditors’ workload and therefore, their cost.

The county reimburses Henry, who has in the past performed audits of the County Prison and Jail, an average of about $35,000 to $40,000 per year, according to Rowland.