Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Radnor’s Interim Finance Director Discovers a New Way to Lose $600K . . . Whoops, the shading was too dark to read!

Here’s a new excuse for an accounting mistake. It was announced this week at Radnor’s Board of Commissioner’s Meeting that the township lost $600K . . . rather they never actually had it. Apparently, some of the columns on the Excel accounting sheets are shaded too darkly to accurately read so the wrong numbers may have been picked up. When the township’s commissioners asked Alison Rudolf, Radnor’s interim finance director to explain why the actual and working budget numbers are different, her explanation begins with maybe there was an ‘absence of some zeros’! I couldn’t make this up — and to explain sloppy accounting with the excuse that the Excel spreadsheet’s shading was too dark!

Apparently, Commissioner John Fisher, who sits on the township’s finance and audit committee, complained in the past that the shading on the Excel spreadsheet was too dark . . . he told the residents at the commissioner’s meeting that he would lighten his own copy before printing so that it was readable. Even after Commissioner Fisher alerted the finance department of the situation, the shading problem was ignored. Lightening up the use of shading in a document does not take an advanced degree in computer science . . . and now this is the finance director’s excuse for the $600K accounting error!

The inability of the finance department to reconcile the books would have been a stunning revelation by itself; but for Radnor’s Township Manager and Finance Director to offer this kind of excuse is truly remarkable! Ms. Rudolf explained that the township uses two different kinds of accounting systems, one for budgeting and the other for everything else. The budget system uses Excel. The Excel spreadsheets were so darkly shaded that they were not readable, so Ms. Rudolf states it was difficult to read some of the entries! Are the residents to believe that the finance department then just guessed what the numbers were? Does this explain Ms. Rudolf’s assertion that perhaps some zeros just went missing?

Another problem with Radnor’s 2010 budget — the budget was based on a significant transfer of revenues from the Sewer Fund. (do you remember Tredyffrin’s Sewer Fund discussion from December?) It now looks as if the Radnor’s Board of Commissioners spent money from the Sewer Fund that was not there. A reduction in usage due to conservation efforts and the economic downturn meant another large shortfall in anticipated revenues.

One bright spot for Radnor’s residents is that this recent budget problem is forcing the commissioners and the township’s finance department to focus on the revenues and expenditures of their 2010 budget. I would also guess this situation will encourage 2011 budget discussions in Radnor Township earlier rather than later. And just remember, Radnor Township has an Interim Finance Director and this $600K error occurred . . . what does that say for Tredyffrin Township? We have not had a Finance Director since March. Maybe a status report on where the township stands with getting this position filled would be a good idea!

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  1. Thanks for providing some light entertainment from our neighbors! That Commissioner meeting brings to mind a very vulgar two word expression that I wouldn’t dare repeat here!

    It just makes me all the more grateful for Mimi’s hand at the helm in Tredyffrin. Let’s hope that she soon gets the support of a strong Finance Director, and that we can turn to our own budget on a reasonable timetable.

    1. OK, John, all I can say is that in every interaction I have had with Mimi she has been unfailingly knowledgeable, practical and helpful. Her public presentations have been clear and to the point. Maybe you and I were at the different meeting the other night, because the numbers were pretty clear to me. She has managed to cope with the vagaries of our Board of Supervisors. She figured out how to keep the Township running without too great a deterioration in service levels, despite the loss of transfer tax revenue and no property tax increase. So far, no mysterious $600K budget discrepancies. And how is the Maude/Lisa/Vincent stormwater control project working for you?

      And although I do get your point about the political timing of the budget discussions, June may not be too early for management to begin thinking of the issues, it may be too early for any kind of structured public discussion.

  2. Mr. Petersen, is your criticism of Mimi Gleason just specific to the two items you mentioned, or is she just another problem in your way to Petersen domination of a board you can’t seem to get elected to? By most standards, Mimi Gleason is considered to be competent and highly regarded. Perhaps I extrapolated too much from your comment. Thanks Chet

  3. Quite true. At the essence of all our budgetary woes is that government employment is such a bad model for productivity and attention to detail. No highly qualified person would want the job — and people like Mimi that work hard still totally serve at the pleasure of the chair. It’s Enron and Arthur Andersen — not too big to fail, but too important to rat out. Board members look at summaries — the green eyeshade needs to care…and the auditors need to come in monthly when the books are closed….and pay attention to details rather than be afraid of being replaced for finding errors.

  4. Mr. Petersen, I am not sure HOW to support the notion that Mimi is doing a great,or good job, other than watching her performance on television and listening to what others say about her. Do you think she is performing poorly? I did not personally hire her, and know nothing of her resume, but my assumption is she was vetted and it was determined that she should get the job. I know she was the assistant manager previously. If you think she is less than ideal. I would like to hear from you as to why. Then again, maybe you think she is doing a good job?

    1. Competent is not necessarily a beacon of excellence. But from you I would expect only criticisms. Maybe what you say is true, but rummaging around this board for awhile it seems you have nothing positive to say about most things.

      I know some folks in the township who think she is very smart and is doing a good job. Well, I don’t have a list of what those good things are. But maybe the assistant director of public works needed to be let go? Maybe it was a good decision?Same with assistant manager. But I would suppose you know the details of these? And it is Mimi’s fault? I suppose you would know?

      What property rights were violated? Please be more specific. Were there any complaints? Lawsuits? You are making these statements, so as you would say, back it up. Thanks Chet

  5. Where is the elected Tredyffrin Township Auditor Robb Miller?

    Does he report at township meetings?

    Does he help Mimi and others to avoid issues like this?

    1. This is a very curious question — what exactly does our elected auditor do? Would like to know the job description. I do not think I have ever met Mr. Miller. I attend virtually all BOS meetings and I’m fairly sure that I have not known him to make a report. Anyone have details on this subject — I would love more information on the topic.

  6. Who is Robb Miller — when was he elected? What is the term and the qualifications. Like Pattye, I have never known him to make any kind of report. Does he help with the budget or review the budget before it is voted on by the BOS? Anyone have the answer on this —

  7. OK, inquiring minds want to know — I went to the township website and here is what I found out about our ‘elected auditor’ and our ‘appointed auditor’. It appears that Rob Miller has no oversight or responsibility for the budget — that position is in place to monitor the appointed (paid) auditors. If I read it correctly, were a similar situation to occur as did in Radnor, Mr. Miller would not have had any authority to help.

    The township’s finances are the responsibility of the Finance Director (currently vacant position), Township Manager and BOS.
    Elected Auditor
    The Elected Auditor serves for a 4-year term beginning on the first Monday of January following the year in which he/she is elected. The Elected Auditor must be a resident of the Township and must be qualified by education, training, or experience in accounting or financial management to perform the duties of the office.

    The current Township Auditor, Rob Miller, was elected in 2008. His role is to provide oversight to the annual independent audit process by:

    •Meeting with the outside auditors at the beginning phase of the audit to discuss procedures and any concerns the outside auditors have
    •Receiving and reviewing copies of the audit reports and associated letters
    •Attending an audit exit interview with the Board Of Supervisors to discuss the results of the audits and provide comment on how well it went and any issues
    Appointed Auditor
    Barbacane Thornton is the appointed independent public accounting firm that conducts the Township’s annual audit of financial accounts, records and procedures.

    1. Please explain how you have come to the conclusion that an elected official who donates his time to the township by refusing compensation, represents an ‘ill of big government’?

      Sounds like a pretty honest guy to me.

      Alas, because of his association to the kampf campaign, you can be assured that he will receive no props on this board, and especially from John Petersen.

  8. Here’s a little more info from Tredyffrin’s Home Rule Charter

    301. ELECTED AUDITOR. An Auditor shall be elected in an at-large election in the Municipal Election in
    1975 and at four-year intervals thereafter. The Auditor shall serve for a four-year term beginning on the first
    Monday of January following the year in which he is elected.
    302. ELECTION. The procedure for the nomination and election of the Auditor shall be as provided in the
    election laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
    303. QUALIFICATIONS. The Auditor shall be a registered elector of the Township and shall be qualified by
    education, training or experience in accounting or financial management to perform the duties of the office.
    304. VACANCY. A vacancy in the position of Auditor shall be filled by the Board, which shall appoint a
    qualified person to serve for the balance of the unexpired term.
    305. DUTIES. The Auditor shall audit the financial accounts and records of the Township and its officers,
    boards, authorities and commissions and shall perform such other duties as the Board may require. IF ANY ERRORS OR IRREGULARITIES ARE DISCOVERED IN THE COURSE OF SUCH REVIEW, THE AUDITOR SHALL PROMPTLY REPORT SUCH MATTERS TO THE BOARD AT A PUBLIC MEETING. The Board shall take immediate action to correct the irregularity and initiate
    action to recover any loss to the Township which may result from such irregularity.
    306. COMPENSATION. The Auditor shall be compensated at a rate of $1,200 per annum, provided that he
    Board may, after the effective date of this Charter, provide by ordinance for a different rate to apply to the
    Auditor elected after the expiration of the term of office of the Auditor at the time the ordinance is enacted.

  9. Auditors review and verify information on reports created by finance and operations people. They report on whether the reports prepared are an accurate statement of the financial position. While I do not know the details of the Radnor issue, that presumably should have been caught by an auditor as it was a misstatement of fact. I assume the elected auditor is simply a buffer between operations/finance and the hired auditors. It would be his job to verify the paid people were doing their jobs.

  10. What is the pay for the elected auditor? I’m guessing he is there to review the official audit statements, but if he is paid more than an honorarium, and considering that he has credentials, he could be a source of verification for Mimi of the financial statements. Do our appointed (i.e., hired) auditors only come in once a year? Considering the history of financial shenanigans in municipalities, I would hope they come in at least quarterly, but monthly would give me comfort too.
    Auditors have nothing to do with finance except to verify it….so they would look at tax receipts, sources of revenue etc. and be sure the township reports were reporting correctly.

  11. BOS Minutes – May 19, 2008

    Mr. Kampf said Rob Miller, our elected auditor, is given a modest compensation, and has
    decided to donate it to the Township for the benefit of the residents. A letter thanking Mr. Miller
    has been sent to him.

  12. Whatever that modest compensation is,(typical our BOS would obfuscate) he pays taxes on it and can deduct the donation….so if he truly accepts no pay, but is in fact paid, he is the ultimate good guy, because he’s paying taxes to give away his time.
    Mr. Petersen’s rant is meant to provoke, not inform. If this gentleman is a qualified auditor, then why should anyone care if he is the treasurer of Mr. Kampf’s campaign. Means to me that he respects Mr. Kampf’s efforts and wants to support him. Also means Mr. Kampf has someone qualified watching his coffers.

    1. “at the very least, there is an appearance of a conflict of interest”? LOL
      I think you meant to say “at the very most”

      A lecture on ethics from John “Lawsuit” Petersen, how utterly entertaining!

  13. The reality is nice guy or not he wasn’t involved in the BAWG and has not given any type of report at a BOS meeting or otherwise. The pay he gets or donates is irrelevant. Does he fulfill his duties and are the taxpayers being represented?

    1. Please direct me to an example of any former Tredyffrin Township Auditor giving a report at a BOS meeting or otherwise.

    2. which duties is he not fulfililng? Not a Kampf supporter just because I don’t find fault with an auditor who hasn’t pointed out any mistakes….the bottom line is what are his du ties and which do you believe he is not fulfilling.

      1. The reality is nice guy or not he wasn’t involved in the BAWG and has not given any type of report at a BOS meeting or otherwise.

  14. Pattye,

    Some portions of the HRC are a little ‘outdated’ and are superseded by law not included in the HRC.

    Under 53 P.S. 65917, Second Class Township Code, Section 917, when an independent auditor is appointed, the elected auditor does not audit, settle, or adjust township accounts.

    If the HRC says the only duties of the elected auditor are to audit the financial accounts and records of the township but the code under 917 says that when an independent auditor is appointed the elected auditor does not audit the township accounts then where are we?

    1. Interesting. The township hired Barbacane Thornton & Company as the paid independent auditor. Does the elected auditor review the independent auditor’s work? Or, does the elected auditor conduct a separate audit of the township books? How does the process work? We need a municipal attorney to weigh in.

      1. From the Township Website:

        The current Township Auditor, Rob Miller, was elected in 2008. His role is to provide oversight to the annual independent audit process by:

        – Meeting with the outside auditors at the beginning phase of the audit to discuss procedures and any concerns the outside auditors have
        – Receiving and reviewing copies of the audit reports and associated letters
        – Attending an audit exit interview with the Board Of Supervisors to discuss the results of the audits and provide comment on how well it went and any issues

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