PARKERSBURG - Wood County Prosecutor Jason Wharton has advised county commissioners they need to review financial practices for the Smart Energy Solutions Program, citing concerns over record keeping.
In a July 22 letter mentioned during Monday's county commission meeting, Wharton told commissioners they need to decide whether they wish to continue as the named sponsor for the energy audit program.
"If so, the account should be placed under the administration of the office of the county clerk and sheriff for payment and record keeping," Wharton said.
The prosecutor noted regardless of whether the commission decides to continue sponsoring the program, all records relative to the checking account and supporting documents for all expenses should be presented to the clerk's office for preservation for auditing purposes.
Wharton said the records must be maintained by the county and "not at an individual's home or office," that expenditures must follow county policies and procedures and outside checking account with signature authority other than that for all other county checks "cannot be permitted."
Commission President Wayne Dunn announced at Monday's commission meeting the matter will be discussed today at the commission meeting.
* Wood County Prosecutor Jason Wharton wrote a letter to commissioners expressing concerns over financial record keeping and personal reimbursement of commission President Wayne Dunn under the Smart Energy Solutions Program,
* Wharton recommends the commission evaluate its position with regard to this program to ensure appropriate controls if it decides to maintain a role in the program.
* A discussion on the matter will be held today at the commission meeting.
The program provides energy audits for middle-income homeowners by partnering with the West Virginia University at Parkersburg's Energy Assessment Program.
Dunn said an earlier meeting with the prosecutor was just "to make sure everything was OK." Wharton mentioned the earlier meeting in his letter, noting "following the meeting I indicated to him (Dunn) I had concerns about the program and wanted to look into it further. As a result of that inquiry, I would recommend that the commission evaluate its position with regard to this program and take steps as soon as possible to ensure that appropriate financial controls are in place if the commission decides to maintain a role in the program."
"This program is under the umbrella of the Wood County Commission because that status provides opportunities to apply for some grants that might not otherwise be available. He (Wharton) was just looking to see if there was anything that needed to be addressed, areas that needed to be changed for continuity. I knew I had to get these records to the clerk's office; I just hadn't gotten around to it yet, then I wanted to wait until he finished his report. He told me everything was fine, he didn't see anything wrong," Dunn said.
The commission president said he anticipates there will be no change in the county's role with the program after today's meeting.
Wharton's letter as well as bank documents were voluntarily provided by Dunn to The News and Sentinel.
According to Dunn the records provided are only part of the documents for the program, because WVU-Parkersburg is handling the marketing part of the project and it has additional records.
"They pay bills also," he said.
Regarding today's meeting, Dunn said he wants to keep his fellow commissioners informed and up-to-date on the program.
"I report to them periodically. I wanted to bring up Jason's letter, but I don't see any reason for any change. There was never any suggestion of anything wrong so much as just having Jason look at it from a legal perspective. There was no question, I'm aware of, from the beginning, it was just a procedural thing. This program has taken a lot of time and a lot of work, but I knew since it's under the county commission it's important to share the documents. I knew it had to be done," Dunn said.
According to Wharton's letter:
* The program has a separate checking account at a local bank under the name Wood County Commission Smart Energy Solutions. The account was opened as a business and nonprofit account, but according to Wharton, there is no such entity registered with the West Virginia Secretary of State.
* The prosecutor states Dunn "personally keeps the records."
* Wharton noted deposits of $600 and $11,849, which did not indicate a source in the records he reviewed.
* The prosecutor cited two checks he said "raise concerns."
"Although they are quite likely appropriate reimbursements, there is no supporting documentation available to review the nature of these reimbursements. One is a check in the amount of $32.30, which appears to be made out to 'Wayne Dunn Assoc.' for reimbursement for two stamps. This check is signed by Wayne Dunn and another individual whose signature I cannot read. The second check is in the amount of $32.30 and made payable to 'Dr. Wayne Dunn Assoc.' and indicated in the memo line that is it for phone time. Without documentation I don't know what phone time is and don't know what two stamps represents," Wharton's letter states. The prosecutor noted the checks present a difficulty for auditing purposes.
* "It is also problematic that, assuming this is a county program, only one county official is signing off on a reimbursement for himself or his business. There is a second signature, but it is not by an individual who would be authorized to sign county checks. This checking account is in the name of the county commission and using the commission's status," Wharton noted.
"There is nothing to indicate that the reimbursements would not have been permissible and reasonable if submitted through the commission's normal method of reimbursement of county funds. However, without supporting documentation, an auditor would not be able to make that determination," Wharton said.
According to bank records, two stamps were purchased from Schwaab Inc. of Wisconsin for a total of $65.70 billed to Dr. Wayne Dunn and Associates at that business' address and paid March 26.
In the documents is also a letter from an individual named as the "Smart Energy Solution administrator," which states to keep a TracFone from expiring, the program needed to purchase more air time and days of service. The memo states: "We did not have the new bank account checks available before the service with TracFone would expire," so the administrator purchased 120 minutes and 90 days of service from TracFone and used "Dr. Wayne P. Dunn's business credit card in order to complete the transaction. He will need to be reimbursed for this expense." The letter is dated March 13. The charge was $32.30.
* Wharton noted one invoice paid to WVU-Parkersburg for $2,860 was mailed to the program in care of Dunn at the commission office. Services rendered under that invoice were for residential energy audits and included in that list of residences which received an audit was Dunn's home. Bank records indicate a second and third property owned by Dunn were also part of an energy audit. There are copies of three checks made out for three audits from Dunn to the program contained in the bank records.
* Wharton also directed commissioners to review West Virginia Ethics Advisory opinions, which state county officials cannot receive "additional benefits" unless granted by the Legislature.
The prosecutor noted the program has a five-person oversight committee, but "is still being operated under the umbrella of the Wood County Commission by using the commissions' name and stature on its checking account, and the commission has allocated over $48,000 to the program."
According to records from the clerk's office those funds are still in a grant line item in the county budget and have not been used to date. Back in January, the commissioners, with Dunn abstaining, voted to turn over more than $48,000 remaining from a 1990s housing program to the new energy project. The 1992 multi-county bond housing program had been closed out.
The program kicked off in the summer of 2012 with a $2,000 check from DuPont, according to bank records. The commission president said there have been 18-19 energy assessments performed so far.