Who’s Watching Over The Town’s Finances?

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After the town’s last Finance Director Walter Pierce quit abruptly in March after only five months on the job, the town is struggling with getting its audit done. The town’s audit committee met Monday, hoping to see the final version of the audit, which is late once again. The committee did not see the final report and what it did receive was missing pages and included a $14,000 discrepency.

Right now the town has an interim Finance Director, CPA Craig Steinhoff, from Sarasota. He’s charged with getting the town’s audit complete. Steinhoff says he’s been working for the town one or two days every week since being brought on. He presented the audit committee with an incomplete audit document on Monday with many missing pages. The firm of Mauldin & Jenkins is conducting the audit.

Audit committee member Richard Cote said he didn’t know how the committee could accept the partial report presented Monday without having the full report, findings and recommendations from the firm conducting the audit.

The audit committee scheduled a special June 1 meeting, hoping a final audit of the town’s finances would be completed. On Monday, the $14,000 discrepancy was brought up by committee member Jim Steele. Steinhoff didn’t have an explanation why the numbers were off.

Audit committee chairman Dan Hughes says for three years in a row there’s been an extensive delay in getting the town’s audit done. “It has not been timely the last 3-4 years.” The town’s fiscal year ended September 30th, 2020.

Steinhoff’s future with the town is unknown after the audit is complete. He told the audit committee Fort Myers Beach does not need a full-time Finance Director. He said the role can be filled part-time, but he added, “there is a need for leadership.” Several committee members said a full-time Finance Director is what the town needs.

Town Manager Roger Hernstadt then informed the committee that the town is now looking for a new Finance Director. But, that’s not all. The town is also looking to hire senior accountants, accountants and an account payable clerk. He said, “we are looking for a Superbowl competitive-like team.”

Committee chairman Dan Hughes says he finds it a little disconcerting that now there are only two people in the finance department and all of a sudden the town manager says we’re looking for 5 or 6 new people. “To me that’s an indication that we’re terribly understaffed. To go from where we are now to what they’re proposing is quite a significant change in personnel,” Hughes said.

Steinhoff told Hughes he doesn’t disagree with his assessment about the proposed hiring flurry.

Mayor Ray Murphy plans to approach the full town council to talk about improving the town’s benefits packages to attract strong employees into the town government. “In order for us to remain competitive in this hiring environment that we’re in.”

An earlier version of the story stated that the town’s fiscal year ended June 30th. That was incorrect. It ends September 30th.

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