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.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Does anyone have concerns about our town manager Roger? Between hiring a federally convicted convict as one of many failed lighting consultants, to trying to pull a fast one by trying to get a much larger than needed building built next to nervous nellies for 67 mornings, which by the way we as tax payers paid $250,000 for renderings for a building that’s not even being built. Now this mismanagement and wanting to hire a full staff when the job can be done by 1 makes no sense from a business perspective. Things that make you go hmmmmm… This mismanagement of the towns funds needs to be investigated!!

  2. It is a funny thing this budget business; 9 days after I sent a letter to all town councilors questioning their non-adherance to their own Covid policy, my husband was “let go” from his BASE position. Daphne claimed the town had no money in the budget for my husbands position (in December 2020). 7 days later a BASE position was posted; what in the world is going on????

    • Good question for town council. An investigation into Rogers practices should be demanded and conducted.

  3. We couldn’t run our own business this way and it’s totally unacceptable for a town! We paid our rent for the street rental one month this year, which we have been doing on time for years, and it went to the water company, which is auto pay! That was a mess to figure out for us. If that can happen, what bigger items are fine incorrectly. They need some sort of help and accountability. Having a CPA come in once or twice a month is fine if you have people who know what they are doing in the accounting part of the town.

  4. Following the money at Town Hall seems to be a tough job.
    Troubled audits follow troubled experiences for me as a member of the Bay Oaks committee trying to plan a new campus with enhanced programs. The bottom line of exactly what we had to work with seemed always fuzzy and ever changing. And then there is the question of where the million plus for the ill–fated mooring field showers building is going and the $1.5 million that was not allowed from the $10 million bank loan for the Times Square improvements.
    I asked those questions before my resignation but never got more than mumbled, incomplete responses from the town manager.
    Former town finance director Evelyn Wicks would never have allowed these audits to be so difficult. A total pro sorely missed in the money room.

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