Audit letter makes it official

The official letter has been received informing Pauls Valley officials of something they already knew – a state agency is conducing an investigative audit of the city books.

It's called a letter of engagement as the Oklahoma State Auditor's Office formally alerted the city of PV to an audit that's been underway for some time now.

The letter was only recently received as the audit comes from a citizens petition drive in 2020 asking mostly for a closer look into the operations of Pauls Valley's hospital before and after it closed in 2018.

It's really more of a formality as auditors have at been collecting documents for months now.

James Frizell, who retired as the local city manager just days ago, says city staff have continued working with auditors to get them whatever information is needed for the audit.

“We have done everything we can to get them the documents they need. We're not trying to hide anything,” Frizell said.

Frizell, who retired after serving 20 years as PV's city manager, is quick to stress audits are a regular part of the job when it comes to the operation of a municipality.

“This is nothing new to us. We're used to audits,” he said, adding the city of Pauls Valley has a couple of audits every year – one an independent audit and another more in-house.

“It's also not the first time we've been audited by the state auditor.”

That, Frizell says, is because of PV's special ambulance district after the hospital closed more than three years ago.

In the letter signed by Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd there's a reminder the cost of the audit for the city of PV will likely range from $40,000 to $80,000.

“The objectives of our audit will include the concerns submitted by the electors of the city of Pauls Valley,” states one portion of the letter.

“At the conclusion of our engagement we will discuss our findings with management and issue an audit report.”

Frizell said no special arrangements have been made, but paying for the audit got a boost from a good year for the city.

“No but we're doing OK. We've had a good year,” he said about a 12 percent increase in local sales tax revenue in 2021.

At this point there's no indication of a timeline for the completion of the audit.

The audit is the result of a petition drive in September and October 2020, the second one that year, as more than 300 signatures were collected.

The petition that passed contained a total of eight specific items for auditors to investigate for the years 2015 to 2020.

1. Determine if financing arrangements, including a $500,000 loan made to Southern Plains, have been properly managed.

2. Determine if sales tax revenue has been used according to its designated purposes.

3. Evaluate the recall petition process and related communications and results.

4. Review contracts, lease agreements and bid processes of the hospital facility and the ambulance service.

5. Determine if the city has failed to pay wages and related benefits to former hospital employees.

6. Review the city’s management/relationship with nursing home facilities across the state of Oklahoma.

7. Review possible violations of the Open Meeting Act and Open Records Act.

8. Review payments to selected personnel.

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