The biggest news is the news that hasn't been reported yet. Isn't that usually the case?
What local news has not been reported? The "answer" from County Mayor David Purkey as to why he and the Finance Director have not come to Hamblen County Commission Audit Committee meetings and have not at least sent written responses to questions that were submitted months ago about the 2004 audit.
It's hard to find any hint of co-operation and answers to financial questions anywhere in the letter. It is easy, however, to find explosive anger and pent-up hatred in his vitriolic and venomous response.
What, you might ask, has prompted yet another outburst from the County Mayor? Financial questions. Now just why would financial questions cause the county's "chief financial officer" to blow a gasket?
The Audit Committee submitted written follow-up questions to the state auditors months ago about findings in the 2004 audit. The state auditors answered most of the questions. For audit questions that they could not answer, they referred the committee to the County Mayor and Finance Director. When the questions were submitted to Mayor Purkey, the county's chief financial officer, he just ignored them. Finally, the Audit Committee voted to have Audit Chairman Osborne send a letter to Commissioner Herbert Harville, a member of the Audit Committee and Chair of the Finance Committee, asking him to communicate with Mayor Purkey and attempt to get some co-operation and answers.
Here is the Mayor's reply to Herbert Harville's request on behalf of the Audit Committee for co-operation and answers. The letter was dated August 9, 2005, and provided on August 26. Even though Mr. Purkey was present at the Aug. 26 meeting, it was Commissioner Harville who read the letter to the Committee and to the public. It's long, it's threatening, and it's full of personal attacks. Since there were no financial answers in the letter, I asked Herbert jokingly, "Does this mean we won't get answers to the shifting of money?" Herbert didn't answer. He didn't have to because the answer is very clear. It's obvious that County Mayor David Purkey has taken the position that so many others in office take as soon as questions are asked: "I don't have to answer anything." His response to 04 audit questions is apparently, "Don't ask, and I won't tell" / "Do ask, and I still won't tell."
August 9, 2005
TO: Honorable Herbert Harville
Chair Finance Committee
FROM: David W. Purkey
Hamblen County Mayor
RE: Response to Edwin Osborne' s Letter of August 8, 2005
Thank you for sharing Mr. Osborne's letter which was apparently passed out at an unscheduled Audit Committee meeting yesterday. As you know, Mr. Osborne failed to provide me with a copy which has become standard operating procedure for Linda Noe and her cronies.
Mr. Osborne has publicly stated on multiple occasions that he will be a candidate for Hamblen County Mayor in the 2006 election. On one particular occasion, he appeared before the County Board of Equalization in an attempt to have his property taxes reduced. As a sitting county commissioner, Mr. Osborne responded to the Board's chastisement of this action by threatening to run for County Mayor. I join with the voices of other county commissioners and elected officials who have recognized Mr. Osborne's weakness as the Audit Committee Chair in allowing the processes of his committee to be tainted by his political aspirations. I can provide the names of others with whom he has declared his candidacy.
At any rate, Mr. Osborne states in his letter that his committee is at an "impasse". I would agree. The impasse has resulted from the blatant attempts by Ms. Noe and her cronies to utilize the Audit Committee as a political tool outside the parameters of state law. The Audit Committee's statutory authority is to recommend the employment of an independent auditor to examine the county's books. The committee then receives the audit document after the independent auditors have completed their work. Mr. Osborne is looking for a full-time job and I am sensitive to that. Clearly, his fixation on running for County Mayor has severely damaged his ability to lead the committee. I fully appreciate that he does not know how to proceed in this context.
Mr. Osborne's statement that "State Auditors indicated that they did not know Hamblen County had an audit committee last year" is puzzling since the committee has existed for over 25 years. In fact, Mr. Osborne's late father was the long time distinguished chair of that committee.
Mr. Osborne infers that there has been a "failure to follow up on and correct previously identified internal control deficiencies". The County Mayor's Office, the Finance Department, and the Road Superintendent received five (5) findings (one involved implementing centralized purchasing which we did immediately and was no easy task with existing resources). As detailed in our audit responses, all deficiencies have been addressed. Again, Mr. Osborne is posturing politically as he attempts to blame my office with findings in other offices. He and Ms. Noe know very well that the County Mayor does not supervise the school system, trustee's office, county clerk and others, where another elected official is in charge by state law.
Mr. Osborne states that the County Mayor has refused "to address certain repeat findings in the FY 04 audit." All findings have been addressed as they pertain to my office. He sees a finding and immediately throws blame. I see a finding and seize the opportunity to improve. That is a major difference in us. I would suggest that he read the state audit document.
Mr. Osborne accuses me of "urging other departments and elected officials to avoid audit committee meetings or provide responses". This is an absolute misrepresentation of the facts and he knows it. We all attended the meeting that Mr. Osborne himself called to sit down with state auditors and discuss the findings and responses within the audit document. His comment is an insult to every county-wide public official who attended that meeting and who is individually elected to office by the people of this county. I do not tell the other elected officials what they can and cannot do. I am a coordinator, not a dictator, as he alleges.
Mr. Osborne refers to "[my] willful decision not to provide requested information [which] compromise[s] the effectiveness of the Audit Committee in its oversight role." This is another untrue statement by Mr. Osborne. The state auditors have verified and said publicly at the very meeting that Mr. Osborne has developed amnesia about, that my office has done so and has been a pleasure to work with. My responsibility is to provide information and answers to the independent state auditors, not to his political campaign committee.
Mr. Osborne concludes by threatening all elected officials with a statement referring to, "future activities of the audit committee [as it] considers even more serious matters". Once again, let me be clear about the law. My responsibility is to the independent state auditors, not to Mr. Osborne as just another Linda Noe crony. He and Ms. Noe have clearly directed the committee outside of state law in a very selfish manner.
These people and others in their group appear to be dedicated to destroying the good name of this county. They never offer any solutions with their threats and conspiracy theories.
Mr. Chairman, I would both challenge and caution them to be ready to back up their lies and misrepresentations with actual facts when the time comes.
I can assure them that this time is coming, maybe sooner than they think...
Cc: All County Commissioners
All Elected Officials and Department Heads
County Attorney Rusty Cantwell
Councilman Claude Jinks
That's the answer from the "chief financial officer" of the county to financial questions from the Audit Committee of the Hamblen County Commission.