Thursday, April 28, 2022

Co$A Financial Flummery? Independent Auditors Criticize City Warehouse Inventory and Utility Accounting Controls

  • The City of St. Augustine's independent auditors caught the City's General Services Department warehouse red-handed, not doing a physical count as required by government auditing and accounting standards. Instead, it used old inventory numbers.

See management discussion in FY 2021 audit, Finding and Recommendation 2021-2.

At least one employee who failed to inventory warehouse contents is no longer employed with the City, officials announced at the April 25, 2022 City Commission meeting (item 10A).  Who was that employee's supervisor, and their supervisor, and their upper management? Why wasn't proper software used for warehouse inventory?  Were any items lost or stolen?


Jim PiggottThe City Warehouse is part of the sprawling Department of General Services, headed by JAMES PIGGOTT, the last City department director hired by former City Manager WILLIAM BARRY HARRISS.   

Mr. PIGGOTT is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point,  and was formerly Inspector General of the Maine National Guard. 

Thus, Mr. PIGGOTT can be charged with the knowledge of government accounting rules on physical inventory.

As one of the top-paid city managers, has PIGGOTT taken an undue interest in seeking special favors from the St. Augustine Port Waterway and Beach District, treating it as if it were PIGGOTT's piggybank, avoiding grant proposals  while blocking the kayak launch it funded years ago.?  You tell me.

At the last SAPWB Board meeting, PIGGOTT was loudly laughing and talking with his confreres at the back of the room, while acting like a Shakespearean character, plotting to silence or remove Commissioner Sandy Flowers for questioning SAPWB and Co$A maladministration.   Several times I shushed PIGGOTT, who continued acting boisterously, ignored by SAPWB Chair MATTHEW BROWN, who seems deferential to PIGGOTT and other putative authority figures with governmental or corporate titles.

Enough PIGGOTTRY, St. Augustine.

  • The independent audit also assailed the City's utility accounts for lacking a proper reconciliation to the general ledger, with the City claiming that the reconciliation was "stopped due to an internal communication error."  No detail.  The Utility Department is headed by TODD GRANT, P.G., who was a City consultant in 2006, helping with City's attempted coverup of its illegal dumping of a landfill in a lake (Old City Reservoir).  The City Finance Department, headed by C,P.A. Mark E. Simpson,  is working to resolve the issues.  In two years, Simpson has replaced all of the Finance Dept. employees, and is seemingly raising credibility and competence.  Mr. Simpson takes personal responsibility for the reconciliation findings and is working to resolve them now.

See management discussion in FY 2021 audit, Finding and Recommendation 2021-1.

The independent audit, by Masters. Smith & Wisby, P.A.,, otherwise gives the City a clean result, while oddly stating that the audit was only for the use of the City.

That dawg won't hunt.

It's our money.

Pay attention, fellow citizens.

City of St. Augustine Audit Committee member and former Audit Committee Chair Todd David Neville, C.P.A. did not write a letter of resignation.  But he has resigned his post, after years attempting to induce the City to improve its internal controls, like a voice in the wilderness.  St. Augustine Mayor TRACY UPCHURCH now chairs the Audit Committee.* 

Mr. Neville is an Indiana University accounting graduate and former accountant with a "Big Eight" accounting firm, working for hedge funds prior to returning to St. Augustine.

Mr. Neville was a Commissioner and Vice Mayor of the City of St. Augustine, 2014-2018.  He is a partner in the Neville Wainio C.P.A. firm in St. Augustine.  Auditor Neville is now the Chair of the Audit Committee of the Florida State Board of Administration, serving a four year term, appointed by the Governor of Florida.

Former City Mayor George R. Gardner wrote in 2019 in his St. Augustine Report, quoting then-Chair Neville:"Our goal as an Audit Committee is to have an audit with no adjustments and no findings."

City Finance Director Mark E. Simpson, C.P.A. wrote me in an e-mail on April 27 that:

  •  "The HR files are not something" that I "have access to, but I have inquired about the specific person who failed at taking accurate test counts. Inventory is the responsibility of the General Services Department."
  • "Other than the inventory situation, which is in another department, I’d be happy to review this document with you at your leisure. Also, I can assure you that prior accounting deficiencies have been rectified in the last two years and am very proud of the team of new employees here who have done a fantastic job.
I am waiting on records relating to the independent audit's Findings and Recommendations. City General Services Director JAMES PIGGOTT, noted for arrogance, has not yet provided any documents on the maladministration of the City Warehouse. 

Enough piggottry, flummery, dupery and nincompoopery.

We need a National Search for a new City Manager.  No excuses this time, as in 1998 and 2010

* Footnote: Unlike beloved former Mayor St. Augustine Nancy Shaver, UPCHURCH is low-key and acts like a genial dunce, a developer puppet, one seemingly insensitive and insouciant to government accountability issues.  

  • Mayor UPCHURCH was illegal picked to replace Mayor Shaver after Mayor Shaver's February 25, 2019 stroke, in the midst of a hostile working environment.  
  • Mayor UPCHURCH's. hiring was engineered by City Manager JOHN PATRICK REGAN, P.E,  once dubbed "the Minister of Propaganda" by fellow City Directors.
  • Mayor UPCHURCH's election was the "Triple Crown of Lawbreaking: (F.S. 119, F.S. 286.0114 and First Amendment), with citizens excluded from meaningful participation until after the list of candidates was disclosed. The four incurious other-directed remaining Commissioners told they could not serve, based on a misinterpretation of the City's resign-to-run law by an Assistant city Attorney.  
  • Mayor UPCHURCH is the  scion of a 99-year old corporate law firm that bears his surname. 
  • Mayor UPCHURCH was the third generation of his famioy to be a Florida state legislator.  
  • Mayor UPCHURCH  was the law school and undergraduate roommate of disgraced former Mayor JOSEPH LESTER BOLES, JR.  
  • Mayor UPCHURCH insolently responded in 2019 to my concern about a City "Keeping History Above Water" event excluding journalists who declined to pay hundreds of dollars for a ticket, asking me, "What do you want me to do about it?"  
  • Is Mayor UPCHURCH's announced retirement "a good career move," in the words of Gore Vidal about Truman Capote?

-----Original Message-----
From: Ed Slavin <>
To: <>; <>; <>; <>; <>;<>; <>; <>; <>
Cc: <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>; <>;<>; <>
Sent: Wed, Apr 27, 2022 6:56 am
Subject: Request No. 2022-105: FY 2021 St. Augustine ACFR and findings re: nonfeasant, misfeasant or malfeasant employee failing to perform inventory or other basic accounting tasks

Dear Chief Michaux, Ms. Galambos, Ms. Lopez, Ms. Fountain, Ms. Breidenstein, and Messrs. Regan, Simpson and Neville:
1. Would you please be so kind as to send me today the FY 2021 City of St. Augustine Annual Comprehensive Financial Report and the specific work papers and other documents on the recent audit exceptions and findings re: unnamed nonfeasant, misfeasant or malfeasant employee who failed to perform an inventory or other basic accounting tasks?
2. Please send me the documents relating to that employee's hiring, promotions, recommendations, evaluations, termination, and root cause analysis on their failure to perform an inventory or other basic accounting tasks.
3. Please include any documents on any related civil, criminal or administrative investigations or proceedings, including SAPD and FDLE referrals or DBPR license complaints or proceedings
4. Why wasn't the full text of the St. Augustine FY 2021 ACFR in Commission's agenda book for April 25, 2022 City Commission meeting?  Why was a copy handed to the Mayor but not the other Commissioners during the meeting?
5. Was this the first time this key annual accounting document was not included in the agenda book?  
6. Do you plan to omit it from the agenda book again?  If so, on what theory? James Madison wrote, "A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowlege will for ever govern ignorance: and a people who mean to be their own Governours, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."  
8. Why?
9. Please send me Mr. Neville's resignation letter as Audit Committee Chair, and related documents on his dissatisfaction with the City's accounting work.
10. Did Mr. Neville quit due to the City's continuing insouciance, lack of internal controls and deficient management abilities?  Please call to discuss.
Thank you.
With kindest regards, I am,

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