Traverse City Record-Eagle

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December 22, 2013

Kalkaska County board questions controller

KALKASKA — The chairman of Kalkaska County’s Board of Commissioners said he doesn’t know why other commissioners called a special meeting to discuss the county controller.

Chairman Stuart McKinnon said he was surprised when other commissioners called the meeting on Thursday.

“I don’t know what documentation they’re supposed to be presenting at this Monday meeting that we need to hold the day before Christmas Eve,” McKinnon said.

Commissioners are set to discuss whether to terminate the county’s controller, Tracy Nichol. Four of the seven commissioners on Nov. 13 voted to oust Nichol, but a termination vote without notice requires a two-thirds majority. The controller is responsible for the county’s accounting functions.

Jim Mosher, one of the commissioners who wants to fire Nichol, accused her of making too many errors that negatively affected county employees.

“The irregularities that are there are very disconcerting,” Mosher said. “Normally, on a state audit there are two discrepancies. There were 18 last year.”

The Harris Group of Traverse City audited Kalkaska County’s book’s for the 2012 fiscal year and noted inconsistencies.

“The County has not been consistently performing bank reconciliations in an accurate or timely matter,” the audit findings stated. “This condition was caused by a change in the County Controller position in January 2012.”

Nichol declined to comment.

McKinnon said Nichol made mistakes, but none were out of the ordinary and she is on track to fix them. Nichol, along with other county employees, regularly meets with assessors to ensure the county’s budget is properly managed and accounted for.

McKinnon said that if commissioners vote to terminate Nichol on Monday, the motion would be unenforceable because Nichol wasn’t given notice and the motion did not first pass through a commission committee.

The issue arose when county Treasurer Valerie Thornburg informed commissioners of a discrepancy between the county’s bank accounts and the general ledger, according to minutes from the Nov. 13 meeting.

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