CLAY COUNTY — After being accused of refusing to appear to provide testimony demanded by the state auditor Monday, Nov. 25, Assistant County Administrator Nicole Brown and county staff provided media a copy of an affidavit Brown sent to the auditor’s office explaining why she was a no-show Monday.
In the document, Brown said Nov. 25 was a scheduled vacation day and that she agreed to appear for a deposition on a different, mutually-agreed upon day as long as she was provided advanced notice.
“At the time the subpoena was served, I had already scheduled a vacation day for Nov. 25, to spend with my family. I understand that counsel for the county has conveyed this information to the auditor’s staff, but that the auditor refuses to accommodate my request to postpone the deposition,” she wrote in the affidavit.
In an email to media outlets sent Monday, Nov. 25 from the county’s public services department, which Brown oversees, an unsigned county statement reports the county has “in no way refused appearing” and has been in touch with the auditor to schedule a time to turn over materials requested by the auditor’s office.
In her affidavit, Brown says as the designated custodian of records for the county, a majority of records demanded in the Nov. 8 subpoena were delivered to the auditor’s office by Nov. 25.
Those not delivered include records relating to assessments or collections, closed minutes from commission meetings, an engagement letter with legal firm Fisher & Phillips and annual, outside financial audit reports for the fiscal year that ended in December of 2018.
Brown said closed meeting minutes are not being turned over at the advice of legal counsel; that as the custodian of records for the commission, she does not have records relating to assessments or collections as those are with the elected offices of county assessor and county collector; that the county doesn’t have an engagement letter with the legal firm mentioned as the firm was retained to assist in collective bargaining issues with the law enforcement union; and there are no 2018 audit reports as the company hired to complete the audit for 2018, RSM, did not release audit reports to the county claiming it could not due to the ongoing state audit.
“Our staff is also working diligently to locate and produce the other records requested as the county has every intention to continue working in good faith to produce these materials in as timely a fashion as possible,” states an unsigned county press release from the county’s website on Nov. 25. “Further, the county has been in contact with the State Auditor’s Office throughout the last week to communicate and coordinate on these requests. The State Auditor’s Office was open to these discussions and is aware of the county’s progress in putting together responses to her requests.”
Sheriff Paul Vescovo said no documents have been requested of his office by the state auditing team but that if they were, he and his staff would comply without hesitation. County Clerk Megan Thompson said her office complied with auditor requests and there are no documents that her team has not turned over.
As of Tuesday, Nov. 26, County Assessor Cathy Rinehart said the majority of records demanded under the state subpoenas relating to her office have been provided except assessed valuations by type of property from 2017 on because she is waiting on clarification from the auditor’s office.
“I asked if they want the May assessed value or the August value and I haven’t gotten clarification on that. I can send both though, it’s no big deal,” she said Tuesday, adding her office has been readily complying with the audit process.
Of records related to her office, Collector Lydia McEvoy said as of last week, nothing has been requested of her by auditor staff, that she had not seen the subpoena until this week as a copy was not given to her by county administrators and that Brown did not tell her she needed documents from the collector’s office in relation to the subpoena.
McEvoy said she learned of Brown’s statements about documents from the collector’s office on social media over the weekend and contacted the state auditor’s staff directly Monday, Nov. 25 and provided documents by the end of Monday.
Because Brown failed to appear Monday, State Auditor Nicole Galloway said her office plans to take Clay County to court to demand compliance with the subpoena.