A county commissioner says she’s looking for ways to keep the city of Santa Fe’s late audits from having a domino effect on two other entities’ audits.

Santa Fe County Commissioner Anna Hansen, who also serves as chairwoman of the Buckman Direct Diversion board and acting chairwoman of the Santa Fe Solid Waste Management Agency board, said Friday she’d like to find ways to get the necessary financial information from the city so the Buckman Direct Diversion Water Treatment Plant can send in its fiscal year 2021 audit sooner.

“I think that is an ongoing conversation,” Hansen said the day after the Buckman Direct Diversion board meeting. “In order for [the Buckman Direct Diversion] to get our audit in on time, we need the billing and the cash balances done ahead of time, and that seems to be places where they are having some trouble.”

The city is the fiscal agent for both the Buckman Direct Diversion Water Treatment Plant and the Santa Fe Solid Waste Management Agency, which are joint city-county entities with both city and county officials on their boards.

“We are at their mercy, so to speak,” Hansen said of the two entities. “That is what frustrates me.”

Mary McCoy, city finance director, spoke in front of the Buckman Direct Diversion board on Thursday to provide an update on the status of the city’s audit and to field questions.

She said she would be willing to discuss ways to help entities like the Buckman Direct Diversion board get the necessary information more swiftly.

The city of Santa Fe announced last month that it would, for the third year in a row, submit its state-mandated audit almost seven months after the Dec. 15 deadline.

It cited a 40 percent vacancy rate in the city’s Finance Department — about 20 positions — as one of the main reasons.

Numerous recommended fixes outlined in the 2017 McHard Report — a review outlining a long-standing series of outdated and insufficient city bookkeeping standards — also were noted as key roadblocks to submitting timelier audits. The city has since announced a corrective action plan that city officials hope will get its audit submissions back on time.

In an email, city spokesman Dave Herndon did not directly answer a question to McCoy about whether the board’s request was plausible, given the city’s staffing shortages, stating the city had plans to submit its fiscal year 2022 audit on time.

Hansen said she tries to have compassion when it comes to staffing issues, as Santa Fe County and many private employers have also experienced shortages, but she would still like to find a way to subvert the city’s own audit timeline.

“I recognize that it is not easy,” Hansen said. “We are short-staffed at the county also, and finding good finance people, I am well aware, it is a heavy lift. I’m trying to have compassion, but, at the same time, I want my cash balances and billing, and if they still have to be late, fine, but I don’t want to be late on the Buckman side.”



Hansen said she has had conversations with State Auditor Brian Colón, and that he understands the situation.

While the various entities figure out how best to work together on their audits, the clock continues to tick on a request from the State Auditor’s Office to change the city’s prospective submission timeline.

Colón had sent a letter to the city shortly after it announced the late audit stating he did not agree with the new timeline while also requesting that a new timeline be submitted within 30 days, which would be Jan. 20.

On Monday, at the city’s Finance Committee meeting, Councilor Michael Garcia raised concerns that the timeline voiced to members of the committee had not changed from the one sent out Dec. 15.

Herndon wrote in an email that the city continues to assess the timeline based on the resources available and will provide an update to the State Auditor’s Office.

A representative for Colón did not respond to an email seeking clarification on whether there would be consequences for not supplying an updated timeline.

Councilor Carol Romero-Wirth, recently appointed chairwoman of the Finance Committee, said her committee meetings will now include regular updates on the city audit’s status.

Still, Romero-Wirth implored residents to look at the McHard Report to see the long-standing financial reporting obstacles the city was facing.

“We will as a committee take this very seriously,” she said at the meeting.

Councilor Signe Lindell offered a more measured approach to the city’s audit woes at the meeting.

“Our previous audits did get in on time,” she said, “and they led to the McHard Report.”

“None of us like that it is late,” she added. “But I trust that when it is done, it is done right. I have lived through on-time, and it was lousy. It wasn’t worth it, and it got us in a lot of trouble, and we are still trying to unwind that today. I won’t say take your time — hurry up a little — but it takes what it takes to get it right, and, to me, that is extremely important.”

(9) comments

Stefanie Beninato

Romero Wirth telling us to be patient because these problems predate Webber? Exactly how many years are residents supposed to be OK with this failure to perform basic municipal duties in a timely way?

Mike Johnson

These entities need to bring a lunch, it will be a long wait, remember Webber was reelected........[lol]

Derek Gzaskow

https://santafenm.munisselfservice.com/employmentopportunities/default.aspx

it must be an HR problem then cause there's only 23 positions listed for the city

Chris Mechels

This is not due to Covid, it predates Covid. It's Webber, pure and simple. He knows nothing of management, never has. He is all about PR, as his record at "Fast Company" shows. Presenting himself as a manager is a lie. The State Auditor, Brian Colon is, as usual, trying to have it both ways. Another political hack. Do NOT elect Colon as Attorney General.... Balderas has ruined the AG office, and it needs a strong reformer to rebuild it. Colon is not that man.

LeRoy Sanchez

Colon is my choice.

Scott Smart

Since before 2017 these issues existed. Still not fixed in 2022. There is no excuse for this. Should not be allowed to be a fiscal agent for any other activities.

Jim Montevallo

These excuses are absolutely ridiculous. This is one of the most basic trusts we place in our employee representatives, is not that hard, and is a massive failure in leadership as we see time after time after time after time with Al.

Why would we believe anything Romero-Wirth or Lindell ever say? They have never once stood up to Al no matter how bad something has become.

We are in a rotten time of the worst leadership in city history. We deserve it because we live with people who don't vote or people who are so naive as to be fooled by an inexperienced incompetent who at first glance is not someone you'd buy a used car from.

RECALL

Mark Specter

Time to search for a new finance director. This is unacceptable.

Patrick Brockwell

20 vacant positions. The City of Santa Fe was the worst employer I ever had. Good people get no support and leave. Mayor Webber keeps the PR machine working though.

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