Audit of Madison County engineering contracts out soon - - Jackson, MS

Audit of Madison County engineering contracts out soon

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By Marsha Thompson - bio | email

MADISON COUNTY, MS (WLBT) - Within two weeks, the State Auditor is expected to release a report on taxpayer dollars spent on Madison county's engineering road contracts. At issue, oversight of millions of dollars for construction projects.

Here's a portion of the background on the issue.  In February, Mayor Mary Hawkins-Butler and Madison aldermen blasted Supervisor Tim Johnson for resisting an audit of what they called questionable engineering fees and subcontracts, asking for his resignation. Johnson blasted back saying he was proud of his record and would not step down. The mayor also got into it with County Engineer Rudy Warnock.

"For her to make allegations that somehow I have marked up or modified a project to profit from it is absolutely ludicrous," said Warnock.

The Madison mayor replied, "If there is nothing there in farming out all this work, then I will be the first one to apologize to Rudy Warnock."

In March, Madison private citizens hired engineer Richard McAfee of Florida to review Madison County contracts with Rudy Warnock's engineering firm. McAfee is with PMA Consultants, LLC. McAfee used public records from nine roadway projects.

In a March interview, he claimed to have found multiple instances of excessive fees and $2 million dollars worth of questionable disbursements to Warnock & Associates. "Principally, it appeared to be the result of the inadequate oversight and then some instances of Warnock & Associates potentially over charging or double charging. For the most part, it appears to be a combination of the two."

So we posed this question to then Madison County administrator Mark Houston. Did supervisors protect the publics' interest and taxpayer dollars in their dealings with their county engineer who got lucrative contracts? "Every payment regarding engineering contracts was contractually legal and correctly documented," said Houston. "There were inadequate checks and balances," countered McAfee. "There were fees in the contracts that for reimbursement that were far beyond the norm."

McAfee's report suggest funds in excess of $2 million dollars deserved scrutiny as potentially having been disbursed without adequate control and oversight. Warnock said he has done nothing improper and challenged McAfee legally.

In June, supervisor D.I. Smith requested the state conduct a comprehensive performance audit, a motion was voted down 3-2. Supervisors Tim Johnson and Karl Banks both voted no citing costs...and calling the audit a witch hunt.

In the end, it was state auditor Stacey Pickering who moved forward with an investigation. Supervisors have seen a draft of the state auditor's report. Until it is released, no one is revealing what is in it regarding proper checks and balances of taxpayer dollars.

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