SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. — City leaders are in a time crunch to get South Pittsburg's 2017-2018 fiscal year audited by Dec. 31.
At the South Pittsburg City Commission's August meeting, City Administrator Gene Vess said the town was "running behind" on hiring an auditor because that's something "normally already done."
The city sent out requests for proposals recently to five area accounting firms and got only two back.
One of those was from the town's previous auditor, Bean, Rhoton, and Kelley in Winchester, Tennessee, for $18,500, and the other was from MG Group in Tullahoma, Tennessee, for $18,000 per year for three years.
Vess said Don Mills, a partner with MG Group, would oversee South Pittsburg's audit, but there were some initial questions regarding Mills' references, especially one from nearby Kimball, Tennessee.
Current Kimball administrators didn't know anything about Mills, he said.
"I just dug a little bit deeper and found out that Mr. Mills did do an audit in Kimball, and it was years ago when he was working with the state comptroller's office [more than a decade ago]," Vess said.
After contacting Kimball city leaders from that time, including current Marion County Mayor David Jackson, Vess said he was told Mills was "very respectable" and that he did a "good, thorough job."
"That concerned us a little bit — the fact that [Mills] put [the Kimball reference] down there, but after Mayor Jackson gave the recommendation, I felt a whole lot more comfortable with it," Vess told the board.
He said the town "has got a lot of work to do this year" regarding the audit and recommended the board hire MG Group.
"I think that we'll have some good expertise as far as taking a look at what we've got to do and what we've got to get fixed and cleaned up as far as the city is concerned," Vess said.
Commissioner Jimmy Haley questioned whether the board would be signing on with the accounting firm for three years or if the contract could be negated after the first year or two.
Vess said the proposal "doesn't say that."
"With most professional services contracts, you have the right to terminate them at any time without any further obligation," City Attorney Billy Gouger said. "I just want to make sure in looking at that [proposal] that the city is not obligating itself to pay additional fees for services that are not going to be rendered if you're not satisfied with the performance that they provide."
When Commissioner Samantha Rector suggested delaying a decision until those questions were answered, Vess said city leaders were in a situation where they would have to hire one of the two bidders immediately because "we're so far behind."
Mills said he apologized for not being clear about the terms in the company's proposal.
"You're never obligated beyond one year because of the budget," he said. "I merely put in a three-year arrangement to show [the board] we were willing to stay put on the price for three years."
The board voted unanimously to hire MG Group to perform the audit.
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at email@example.com.