WAGENER, S.C. (WJBF) - NewsChannel 6 obtained an audit done on Wagener, South Carolina. We've learned the town used funds that were set aside for victim's assistance to support general town operations.
"I don't know. I didn't know it had been transferred. I didn't know it's been used," Mayor Mike Miller told NewsChannel 6's Shawn Cabbagestalk.
Certified Public Accounting Firm Brown CPA prepared the audit of Wagener's finances. It disclosed reporting issues with a number of documents including, state treasurer's revenue information and annual financial statement audits.
Showing Mayor Miller the four page document, he said, "This is the first time I'm seeing it."
The firm checked to make sure money retained for assistance for victims were deposited into a separate account. It was, in fact, deposited into a separate account but we now kow that those funds were transferred into the general operating fund for general expenses. Mayor Miller said his team didn't even know about the transfer nor that it was untouchable.
"I spoke with the authorities in Columbia and I told them I would attend to it at once, which we did, and we replaced it," he said.
He said he first stated noticing the financial issues after he stated opening the mail personally. Some employees, he said, were told not to inform him of certain issues.
"It was incredible that it had gone on that long with no knowledge of any elected officials and it could not have been coincidental," he shared.
Mayor Miller later found issues with questionable checks. He called state police to investigate.
"There are issues that because of the on-going investigation, beginning over a year ago, I can't talk about," he stated.
He also answered questions about funds from the first department and its association funds used for general town operations. A charge he denies.
"The local option sales tax was allocated to the fire department to pay for a truck," Mayor Miller recalled. "From the time that the ballot was approved to the time we received the funds to pay, the town had already paid multiple payments on it. [The fire department] wanted the $23,000 difference returned to them. No. That goes back to where it was taken from," he added.
Now trying to turn the town's finances around. He says the medical center is operating in the black
"The credentialing of the center alone took over a year. That's when no funds were coming in , or minimal funds. Now we're fulling credentialed," he said.
The federal taxes and pensions and health deposits are up-to-date, as well.
"I just got a letter from the IRS two or three days ago we are clean. we are up-to-date. [Liens have] been released," Mayor Miller stated.
But he says, often times, he and members of council are left in the dark about what's happening inside their own town.
"Those that are elected are responsible and for the record in charge have no control. I've been told several times by employees they were told don't tell the mayor this," he shared.
Shawn asked,"Will you guys be able to continue to operate if this continues?" Mayor Miller said,"At this point, I think we are, like I say, floating back to the top and I think we will do well. But the elected officials will have control and I mean absolute control."
The mayor added that some issues come from not enough oversight with certain departments in the town of less than a thousand. He says that will be changing January 2019.
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