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Utilities Commission OKs 6 accounting changes


WILLMAR -- Six recommended improvements in internal accounting controls were approved Monday by the Willmar Municipal Utilities Commission. The changes were recommended by Conway, Deuth and Schmiesing, PLLP, certified public accountants of Willmar.

The certified public accounting firm conducted the utility's 2011 audit and reported its findings at the March 26 commission meeting. The changes were discussed by the Labor Relations Committee on April 3 and reported Monday to the full commission by committee chairman Matt Schrupp.

The changes affect travel policies, employee recognition expenditures, credit card use, daily meal allowance during travel, appropriate employee meal purchases, and itemized documentation.

The travel policies were amended to include commission members under the same rules as utility employees. Meal limits will be tied to IRS guidelines.

The auditors recommended adding an employee recognition policy in accordance with state law to reflect the current practice of spending funds on employee recognition gifts and events.

The credit card policy was updated to verify compliance with state law. The auditors said certain credit card transactions were not in compliance with the current policy.

The commission updated the daily meal allowance during travel. The auditors said they noted meals had been purchased during travel that exceeded the commission's daily allowance. The update states that utility employees or commissioners will be liable for the difference if the limits are exceeded.

The commission approved a change that outlines when the utility will pay for local meals. The auditors noted meals had been purchased at local establishments during normal hours of operation.

The auditors said the commission did not have a policy that describes when a local meal is approved for purchase and/or reimbursement, the acceptable value, and who the policy applies to.

Under the adopted change, a meal will be provided if there is work outside of normal hours and this work extends over a normal meal time and the work is at least 4 hours in duration and is approved at the discretion of a supervisor or other management person. The meal or meals would be paid for by the highest level employee partaking in the meal.

The commission, the commission adopted a change for all employees and commissioners, in accordance with state law, that requires itemized receipts be collected and retained to support claims for payment with the commission credit card.

Schrupp said a number of items had come up during the auditor's management review "and we wanted to get those items taken care of. Some of them have been outstanding for some time and we want to make sure we get those items cleared up as quickly as possible.''

Later, Schrupp told the Tribune that the changes are not related to the Feb. 27 firing of General Manager Bruce Gomm.

One of the findings in an investigative report that led to Gomm's firing was that he violated the credit card policy by failing to turn in timely receipts to support the charges made on the commission's credit card. The report noted there was no evidence of Gomm making any improper or unapproved purchases with the card, only that receipts were not submitted in a timely manner.

Also Monday, attorneys Chris Hood and Robert Scott of the Flaherty and Hood law firm of St. Paul attended their first commission meeting. The City Council last week approved a contract with the firm to provide primary legal counsel to the city and the commission after Rich Ronning retired last month as longtime city attorney.

Hood said both he and Scott wanted to attend the first commission meeting together. In the future, only one would attend. Hood said the firm will have an attorney present as often as the commission desires. The firm could also attend via speaker phone, said Hood.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150