Bill aims to let Bay avoid audits for 2004 & 2005

A state legislative bill that lets Bay St. Louis off the hook for required city audits for fiscal years 2004 and 2005 passed the state House this week and will now go before the Senate.

The city requested the legislation because officials say necessary records to prepare the audits were ruined in Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Most of the records were stored at the old City Hall Annex building on Court Street when the storm descended on the city.

House Bill 1731 was introduced as local and private legislation by Rep. J.P. Compretta, of Bay St. Louis, at the request of the city. It authorizes the city to waive annual state audits for fiscal years 2004-2005, “due to the effects of Hurricane Katrina.”

State law requires municipalities to file audits of their operations each year. But Municipal Clerk David Kolf said the City Hall Annex was inundated with five feet of water on the first floor during Katrina. Records critical to the audit had been stored in a vault on the first floor of the building.

“Everything in there was flooded,” Kolf said.

Lost documents included “a lot of the records of the capital assets,” as well as accounts of receivables from the city utility fund, Kolf said. Cash that was on hand at the time was reconciled, but many paper records were ruined and the computer system used by the city in 2005 did not provide electronic backups for many files.

The state auditor’s office is not authorized to grant audit waivers, but an auditor’s representative recommended that the city seek legislation forgiving audits for the years in question. “It was his recommendation, to protect the city, to get a waiver,” Kolf said.

Mayor Les Fillingame asked the Bay City Council several weeks ago to approve requesting the special legislation. It was introduced by Compretta as “local and private legislation,” which means the bill applies only to Bay St. Louis, and affects no other jurisdictions.

The bill was approved by the House this week.

BY J.R. Welsh

The Sea Coast Echo

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