Helena-West Helena has met a legislative deadline to provide records needed by state auditors, getting out from under the threat of losing state turnback funds for not providing the documents quickly, a state supervisor said Thursday.

Helena-West Helena has met a legislative deadline to provide records needed by state auditors, getting out from under the threat of losing state turnback funds for not providing the documents quickly, a state supervisor said Thursday.
"We had the difficulties initially of finding the records, obtaining them," said Pat Carson-Williams, regional supervisor for the Arkansas Division of Legislative Audit at Monticello. "They weren't real cooperative at first. But they cooperated and they did provide everything we needed."
Auditors had been trying since January 2007 to access the records, and the Arkansas State Police last year seized one of the city's hard drives as part of the effort.
Carson-Williams said Thursday that auditors are in the process now of finalizing the city's 2006 audit. She said she could not discuss the details. The auditors will present their findings to the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee in September, she said.
Last year, the committee informed Helena-West Helena that the state could start withholding part of the city's monthly turnback funds if the city did not provide the records. Instead, the committee agreed in February to give the city another month to hand over a ledger, tax reports and other financial information.
Helena-West Helena Mayor James F. Valley did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday. He has said previously that there apparently was a misunderstanding between city and state auditors as to what records the state needed. He maintained that the city's response was not "a hostile situation where we declined to give documents."
The 2006 year was the east Arkansas town's first to operate after the merger of Helena and West Helena. The new city inherited record keeping and budget problems from the previous administrations, a debt of about $1.5 million, and legal fees of about $500,000 from past disputes among city officials in West Helena.
The previous cities had different computer systems that didn't talk to each other and a maze of bank accounts allowed more than one series of checks to be written against the same account.
While it is not unusual for the audit division to be working on 2006 audits in 2008, Carson-Williams said, the merger contributed to the difficulties in securing the records.
"This was a very unique situation," she said.
State law requires municipalities to maintain certain records. However, Helena-West Helena in some instances had not kept the required records and city officials had to go back and recreate them, she said. On top of that, the city experienced a computer crash, she said.