By Jennifer Ortiz
HOWELL – Mayor Bill Gotto said this week that municipal officials were aware of financial issues in the township before those issues were reported publicly in Howell’s annual audit.
Township Council members voted on July 11 to put a corrective action plan in place.
“This … was done as part of our annual audit,” Gotto said. “The audit … actually did not uncover what happened, we were aware of (the issue) before the audit was completed. It had to do with the way cash amounts were being matched with what was in our system for permits and other things that were issued.
“When it was immediately identified that there were transactions that took place for which the cash balance did not match, that was when it was identified there was a problem and … the next day it was dealt with,” Gotto said.
The mayor said Chris Jackson was recently fired from his position as Howell’s land use director and Gotto said Jackson’s alleged actions in town hall are under investigation by law enforcement authorities.
Gotto said the issues township personnel uncovered were brought to the attention of the auditor so they could be noted in the audit and so corrective action could be taken.
The mayor said since news of the matter became public, some people have asked why cash is accepted as payment for certain items.
“Just eliminating cash was not an option and quite honestly, there are still going to be people who are going to touch cash,” Gotto said. “That’s what happened … and that’s the end of the story.”
The council accepted the audit and authorized a corrective action plan on July 11.
The corrective action plan states that officials should establish, implement and maintain proper internal control procedures of the cash receipting of code enforcement, construction code, engineering and land use revenues.
It was noted that the township did not have properly established internal controls in place over cash receipting.
According to the resolution, the township manager, chief financial officer and related department staff and management have responded to the situation by working to clearly identify the error and to implement the proper internal control procedures required to resolve the issue.
Officials have reviewed the current internal control procedures regarding the handling and tracking of cash receipts in the Community Development Department.
It was noted that the recording/maintaining of transaction data in the software currently used in the department has the appropriate level of electronic internal controls to correct the significant deficiency as noted in the audit. These electronic internal controls will be properly implemented and documented with the assistance of the Finance Department.
The resolution states that officials have identified the appropriate steps needed to correct this issue going forward and will implement the required changes immediately.
Gotto, Councilwoman Pauline Smith, Councilman Robert Walsh and Councilman Edward Guz votes in favor of the resolutions.
Deputy Mayor Robert Nicastro was excused from the meeting due to a family emergency.