State Audit Questions County Leases, Financial Practices

County Commissioner Chairman Leo Cakounes

BARNSTABLE – Financial practices of the county are being questioned after a recent review conducted by the state auditor’s office.

The 14-page audit finds that the county did not properly lease its properties, inadequately documented expenditures and needs improvement on its process for financing capital projects.

“Every single thing that is in this audit I have been screaming for attention and change,” said Leo Cakounes, the chair of the Barnstable County Commissioners. “And I’m thrilled that the auditors have backed me up on what I thought was going on.”

Auditors found that the county did not follow proper leasing requirements, including first offering the properties to the state or the communities in which the land is located, not having independent appraisals completed and not maintaining adequate documentation.

Seven tenants of county properties were also found not to have leases. Five of those also had their utilities, grounds maintenance, IT expenses and parking lot use paid for by the county.

The audit recommends the county should establish formal written policies and procedures for leasing properties and establish monitoring controls to ensure the policies are followed.

The state also says the county may obtain legal advice on whether leases can be renegotiated of terminated if administrators believe the agreements are not in the best interest of the county.

Some of the tenants with leases being question include the Cape Light Compact and the Senior Living Residences of Cape Cod in Bourne.

“People that are tenants, especially the Bourne assisted living center, they need to rest assure they are not going to get an eviction notice tomorrow morning and have to get a moving truck and get out of there next week,” Cakounes said. “That’s not going to happen.”

Cakounes said the bad leases will be placed the County Commissioners’ agenda.

“We are going to talk about it as public officials and I am going to propose that we sit down, especially with the Bourne assisted living center, and just make sure that we cross the T’s and dot the I’s and get some accountability for the county’s investment in that facility which is supposed to be housing and helping those less fortunate be able to get assisted living.”

Cakounes said some officials have said publicly that there will be eviction notices.

“Everyone needs to know that action cannot happen unless all three commissioners vote for it” he said. “I will not support that, nor do I believe my fellow commissioner Mary Pat Flynn would support that. We are going to approach this in a professional manner.”

The audit also questioned the county’s practices of not properly financing capital projects. Although the county was authorized to issue debt in the form of bonds or notes to fund projects, the county routinely funded projects using money that was properly approved to fund its General Fund, not to issue debt. Many capital projects that were deemed necessary by the county were not completed as a result.

Between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2015 the county approved $6,543,200 in capital projects. Because the county did not secure debt to finance these projects only $2,352,773 of the proposals were financed.

“We’ve been moving forward on this particular issue for almost three years now,” Cakounes said.

Cakounes said he expects the issues highlighted in the audit to be discussed at next week’s County Commissioners’ meeting.

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