By Frank Lewis
Portsmouth City Council will now require City Auditor Trent Williams to present directly to city council a Statement of Cash Position as a part of his report, and to verbally explain that statement, answering questions where needed.
“Every month he (Williams) should be providing a Statement of Cash Position,” Portsmouth City Manager Derek Allen said. “Every community I have ever worked at gave council a Statement of Cash Position.”
Allen said the report has always been given by Williams to City Clerk Diana Ratliff, and it is accepted by council as a part of her report.
“Every meeting you should be having him (Williams) submit his report and then you accept it as part of the record,” Allen said. “He should be providing, on a monthly basis, a Statement of Cash Position which is going to list month-to-date, year-to-date revenues; month-to-date, year-to-date expenses, encumbrances and where we stand on cash on a monthly basis, which will tell you a lot, and he should be able to tell you what it means, and if he can’t - I can.”
Allen said there are things in the report that look like drastic changes, but have simple explanations such as postings which make one month’s numbers look extremely different from another. He said having Williams explain it would make it easier for city council to understand what they are looking at on the report.
“He should be providing you a monthly report, and you accept that into the record and ask him questions at that point and time and that hasn’t occurred since I’ve been here,” Allen said. “My recommendation, instead of changing rules, is just as I submit a report to council, he (Williams) should submit a report to council and it should be accepted and he should answer any questions at that time.”
Allen said the Auditor’s Report should be provided as a part of the council agenda and council decided to place it just ahead of the individual ward reports on the agenda.
“I’ve talked to him about this. There is no reason why that report can’t go out a week in advance so that we’ve had a week to look at it,” Allen said.
In response to a question from Fourth Ward Councilman and Acting Mayor Jim Kalb’s question as to who will inform Williams that he is to provide the report, Allen said, “I’ll tell him. I’ll go talk to him about - quit giving your reports to Diana. Submit your report, discuss it and require council to vote to accept it into the record. I don’t know what the reluctance is I think that resolves the issue that the (State) Auditors have brought up.”
The action apparently did not catch Williams by surprise. Tuesday, in response to a question from the Daily Times as to his intention to provide that report and a verbal explanation, Williams said - “I told them (council) a couple of meetings ago that I was going to give them that in addition. They get a Fund Revenue and Expense Report that covers everything that we do. They get that. I don’t know if they realize it. They get it by e-mail. It’s sent to the (city) clerk every month at the end of the month and I don’t know if they look at them.”
Williams said he told council recently he would send them something a little different from just what he has been sending.
“It’s called a Current Cash Position Report,” Williams said. “I told them I’d be giving that to them at every meeting if that’s what they wanted and I asked them at that meeting - I don’t know what it is that you want. You have to tell me. I’m giving you everything I know to give you - what’s given at every city, village and school district that I’m aware of.”
Williams said he had heard that they would move his report up in order on the agenda.
“What I’ll do is just give them that Cash Report that I described to them last month and I’ll have it in their packets along with the City Manager’s Report so they have time to look at it the week before the meeting and then let them ask questions,” Williams said. “I’ll probably point out anything I note on there that’s basically noteworthy.”
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 1928, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.