Baker delays auditor contract vote

The City Council delayed action on a proposal authorizing the mayor to sign a contract for auditing services because parties in the discussion could not agree on what time period the audit will cover.

The city needs its books audited for the fiscal year 2012-13 that ends Sunday, but the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting would have authorized Mayor Harold Rideau to sign a contract with the accounting firm of Postlethwaite & Netterville for 2013-14, the fiscal year that begins Monday.

The discussion reignited citizen complaints against council members Joyce Burges, John Givens, Charles Vincent and Robert Young for choosing the Baton Rouge firm in April over Baker certified public accountant Mary Sue Stages, the city’s longtime auditor.

“I think we did serious damage to our city’s economic development,” said Councilman Pete Heine, who voted against Postlethwaite & Netterville’s appointment in April.

“Nobody has come to me with a valid reason for firing our auditor,” Heine said.

When Rideau pointed out the date in the agenda, Burges said the council’s intention was for Postlethwaite & Netterville to audit the books for the current fiscal year and pay the firm with funds in next year’s budget.

The discussion led to questions about what year Stages was to audit when the outgoing council voted a year ago to engage her, a move initially opposed by Burges, Givens, Young and Vincent.

Rideau said Stages already may have been engaged to do the 2012-13 audit.

“I’m not going to be bound by two contracts,” Rideau said, and Burges asked to table the contract until the next meeting.

Vincent also had an item on the agenda to allow him to sign the auditing contract, but Rideau said the city charter says only the mayor can sign contracts.

Residents Charles Crittenden, John Abel, Jack Milton and Doug Pennington criticized the four council members for dropping Stages, whose father also audited the city’s books for years.

They said Postlethwaite & Netterville is charging more than Stages would have charged and the four have not said why they decided not to reappoint Stages.

“You’re the worst board I’ve seen in this town,” Milton said, while Pennington said the move “looks fishy.”

“I do think we’ve beat this horse too long,” said Burges, who was elected council president for the coming year. Givens was named vice president.