The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance

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Council member attempts to make political capital
Issue with RMC is hardly major
Warwick Jones

The Finance Committee agenda promised little of interest for last night’s meeting. The promise was realized. But it was still a long meeting. The Committee retired for an executive session to consider the acquisition of the Grand Bees property (adjacent to the Bees Ferry Landfill) and the sale of a portion of 995 Morrison Drive. However, no action was taken on either of these items, Chairman Pryor noted. However the Committee voted to accept the staff’s recommendation on the acquisition of a right of way on Palmetto Park Way 3. No details of the staff’ recommendation were given.

But the evening was not without some interest, some might say entertainment but for the fact that it became labored. Council member Summey called it “politics at its best” though he probably meant at its worst. He was referring to Council member Condon’s interrogation of the County’s Internal Auditor, Mr. Robert Stewart. At the request of Council member Condon, Mr. Stewart audited the accounts of the Register Mesne Conveyance (RMC). The Head of RMC is Charlie Lybrand who will be facing voters again in a few weeks. He has a Democrat challenger.

The issue was an account that had never been audited. It was the “overage” account and the auditor did not think that it contained funds that were the responsibility of the County. But it transpired that they were and should be audited by the County. It also transpired that the account held funds of… $4000!

Mr. Stewart was on the spot. He had found a deficiency in the accounts of the RMC. And Council member Condon, who is a Democrat wanted to get political mileage out of the deficiency. And Mr. Stewart clearly did not want to say anything critical of Mr. Lybrand, and he didn’t. Indeed he noted the cooperation of Mr. Lybrand and his willingness to change the processing of the account. There was no hint of wrongdoing.

The discussion of the account took about three quarters of an hour and it was clear that most Council members were growing impatient and wanted the issue closed. We suspect that most also thought that Council member Condon was too rough in her treatment of the internal auditor over an account that was hardly material. She probably was, but she was right to take issue with the neglect of the account, and as it transpired in the discussion, the use of the account to pay incidental office expenses - and without receipts.

Mr. Lybrand spoke at the end of the discussion. He said the account had been existence before he became head of the RMC some 20 years ago. Considering the nature of the account – to hold amounts of overpayment – he did not think it was strictly County funds. The account was not purposely hidden from the auditor. The recommendations of the County Attorney and Administrator would be adopted in the future management of the account.

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