At the request of a Hilliard City Council member, representatives of accounting firm Schneider Downs & Co. Inc. are expected at the July 9 council meeting to explain the scope of a professional-services contract to review the city's financial controls.

"I want to understand what they are doing and then decide if we should ask them to do more," Councilman Les Carrier said June 25, after asking council President Albert Iosue for discussion of the contract at the next meeting.

The city's contract with Schneider Downs states in part, "This agreement shall be considered terminated when the amount of $48,000 has been invoiced and paid to (Schneider Downs) ... unless City Council appropriates and authorizes the expenditure of additional funds."

The contract establishes hourly rates of $110 to $140 per hour, depending on the staff member providing consulting services.

According to a March 23 scope proposal from Schneider Downs, the firm was asked to provide consulting services "to ensure appropriate controls are in place and effectively safeguard the city's funds and assets."

The audit was requested, Carrier said, in the wake of the alleged theft of more than $500,000 by Heather H. Ernst, the former deputy director of the Hilliard Recreation and Parks Department, whom a Franklin County grand jury indicted March 1 on eight felony counts, including theft in office and filing false tax returns. Court documents revealed that from May 2013 to fall 2017, $541,331 was unaccounted for from deposits for the city's two pool facilities.

A trial date for Ernst, who pleaded not guilty, is set for July 16.

"But a cursory audit is not enough," Carrier said.

He said city officials are limiting the scope of the audit to stay below the $50,000 limit, under which they can spend money without council approval.

Further, Carrier said, City Council should have oversight of the audit.

"What stones get overturned is up to us," he said.

Iosue did not agree.

He said June 26 he was satisfied with the scope of the audit.

"I'm pleased with the scope," Iosue said. "They are looking at everything. I don't know how much deeper you can go."

Iosue said he met with Schneider Downs representatives and the opportunity was available to other council members.

"I don't understand why (Carrier) needs to have them at City Council," he said. "It's just going to cost money to have them here."

Iosue said the firm had just begun interviewing city employees as part of the first phase of the audit.

That first phase is "process and control assessment" and is divided into three stages: understanding current practices, documenting those practices and then making recommendations for improvement, according to the proposal.

The second phase is implementation of control enhancements, according to the proposal. Not all of the enhancements are part of the current contract.

Carrier said he wants the audit vetted publicly.

"Too much has happened," he said, referring specifically to the revelation by finance director David Delande, shortly after the indictment of Ernst, that an audit revealed proper health-insurance-premium deductions were not made for three council members – Tom Baker, Carrier and former member Bill Uttley – in 2017. It was not the council members' mistake.

An internal audit will determine if any withholding mistakes were made in previous years and will look back to as early as 2005, according to Delande.

Carrier said he would wait to hear a report from Schneider Downs to before deciding to ask for a broader audit that could include the policy of personal use of city vehicles by employees.

"People deserve to know what happened (concerning the theft of money from the city's pools)," he said.

The July 9 meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the Hilliard Municipal Building, 3800 Municipal Way.

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