Like the dog that didn't bark in "The Adventure of Silver Blaze," one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes novels, St. Johns County's outside auditors, CARR, RIGGS and INGRAM, allegedly failed to do its jobs after years of serving as the Count's supposedly "independent auditor."
CRI allegedly failed to detect embezzlement by Raye Brutnell, the Finance Director who allegedly stole $785,786+ commencing in 2012, from the St. Johns County Sheriff's office, while sitting only some 25 feet from controversial longtime Sheriff DAVID SHOAR.
On December 15, 2020, less than three weeks before controversial St. Johns County Sheriff SHOAR left office, St. Johns County sued its former auditors, the Alabama-based, 2000 professional CPA firm of CARR, RIGGS and INGRAM, for professional negligence for failing to detect Sheriff DAVID SHOAR's CFO's stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars. The sixteen-page complaint was baccked by some 221 pages of exhibits on the County's Request for Proposals, the defendant's response and contractual commitments, applicable GASB auditing standards, and the auditor's alleged malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance. St. Johns County v. CARR, RIGGS & INGRAM, LLC, Case No. 2020-1331 (St. Johns County Circuit Court).
The Sheriff office Finance Director's embezzlement scheme went on, undetected, for at least some. six (6) years. Married to an FDLE supervisor, RAYE BRUTNELL created phony front companies and accounts, which she used our tax monies to pay for nonexistent work for SHOAR's St. Johns County Sheriff's office. She then moved our tax money to her own accounts. Then one day she deposited one of the Sheriff's office checks directly in her own account. She got caught. The Bank of America and two ethical SJSO employees blew the whistle on Raye Brutnell's $702,000+ embezzlement. Brutnell pled guilty to criminal charges and is incarcerated until December 24, 2028. Her scheduled video deposition will become part of the evidence presented to the jury in the County's lawsuit, commencing on or about September 11, 2023.
On June 6, 2023, the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) held a confidential "shade meeting," with several of our County's in-house and outside lawyers, the County Administrator and a court reporter. (After the case is over, the transcript will become available to the public).
The subject of the confidential shade meeting was listed as litigation expenses. The private "shade meeting" went on for about 90 minutes, with no settlement announced. The defendant sent a settlement proposal on or about March 16, 2023. Further discovery is pending.
Before the shade meeting, I spoke out in public comment against any settlement with CARR RIGGS & INGRAM, LLC in public comment (Item 1, re: Sheriff's and SoE budget, here). Some cases are so important that the public interest is better served by having a trial and letting the courts decide. What if the case of Brown v. Board of Education had been a secret settlement instead of a Supreme Court case? There would have been no precedent, no justice, no final judgment of law and history. A St. Johns County jury will do public justice on the auditing malpractice of CARR, RIGGS & INGRAM, LLC, which allowed embezzlement to go on for five years. See Yale Law Prof. Owen M. Fess, Against Settlement (Yale Law Journal, 1984).
The County's outside lawyers are from the Jacksonville office of the 217-lawyer New Orleans founded law firm of Adams & Reese, including recently re-elected Adams & Reese Executive Committee Chair Timothy W. Volpe and partner Thomas P. White.
The court-appointed mediator was Timothy J. McDermott.
The County's former auditing firm, CARR, RIGGS and INGRAM, LLC is defended by J. Nixon Daniel of the Pensacola law firm of Beggs & Lane, RLLP, which asserts in its Answer that the County was negligent and that its negligence was the "sole cause" or a contributing cause to any loss, injury or damages" the County claims.
Wikipedia states: "Carr, Riggs & Ingram, LLC is the largest certified public accounting firm headquartered in Southern Alabama. With offices located in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas, Carr, Riggs & Ingram ranks 22nd in the top 100 U.S. accounting firms and employs over 2,000 professionals."
The auditor professional liability case is set for trial commencing on or about September 11, 2023 before Hon. Howard M. Maltz, Circuit Court Judge. From Judge Maltz's order:
TRIAL DATE AND DOCKET SOUNDING. This case is set for trial during the two (2) week period commencing September 11, 2023, at 9:00 a.m., in courtroom 351, Richard O. Watson Judicial Center, 4010 Lewis Speedway, St. Augustine, Florida. The first day of the trial period is hereinafter referred to as the “trial date.” Docket sounding (calendar call) will be held in courtroom 351, Richard O. Watson Judicial Center, on September 5, 2023, at 1:30 p.m. Appearance at docket sounding by counsel and all unrepresented parties is mandatory. Docket sounding shall be attended by an attorney who will participate in the trial of the case. Trial counsel may appear in person or by Zoom. If trial counsel desires to attend docket sounding via Zoom, the Court and all counsel shall be notified of counsel’s intention to appear by teleconference prior to the docket sounding date by filing a notice of the same and notifying the judicial assistant. Failure to attend docket sounding may result in the dismissal of this action, the entry of a default or other appropriate sanctions. Parties shall be prepared to try the case anytime during the designated trial term. Trial will commence immediately after jury selection, unless otherwise stated by the Court.