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The Helena Arkansas Daily World - Helena, AR
  • Lawmakers hear details of latest Helena-West Helena audit

  • Helena-West Helena officials paid out more than $2,000 in unapproved expenses and didn't submit receipts or documentation for more than $400,000 in disbursements, a new state audit has found.
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  • Helena-West Helena officials paid out more than $2,000 in unapproved expenses and didn't submit receipts or documentation for more than $400,000 in disbursements, a new state audit has found.
    The Legislative Audit Division report presented to lawmakers Thursday showed the city paid more than $2,000 for unapproved expenses, including Rotary Club dues for the mayor and for a routine eye exam for another employee. Helena-West Helena has received critical state audits nearly every year for the past decade, lawmakers said.
    "Sen. (Eddie) Cheatham and I have been on this audit committee since 2009. ... These reports and these findings have been coming through for years," said Rep. Mary Lou Slinkard, R-Gravette.
    The audit also noted that supporting documents such as receipts weren't available for 14 disbursements worth more than $407,000. Mayor Arnell Willis told lawmakers that he was still in his first term during the audit period and was learning accepted practices but that changes have been made within the city.
    "When I first came into office in January 2011, having never been a member of the Rotary, ... I was invited to the Rotary Club, and I didn't know I was going to have to pay dues," Willis said. "Monday morning, I'll pay that, so that's a nonissue. ... It's just a misunderstanding."
    Prosecuting Attorney Fletcher Long said he's received the auditors' report but is awaiting a report from the mayor's office before deciding whether to proceed with a criminal investigation.
    "I wrote a letter to the mayor according to the statute, and I asked the mayor to look into all of it including the matters in his own office. And after he's concluded his investigation, then I said that he should get back in touch with me," Long said. "The report I received did not have details of who spent what or how much was spent where. I would need those details."
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