State audits city’s finances and Sunshine compliance

By Ryan Ottney

September 18, 2013

Ryan Scott Ottney

PDT Staff Writer

Ohio Auditor David Yost is completing his audit of the city of Portsmouth’s financial status and its compliance with Ohio Sunshine laws which require records be made available to the public.

It’s still unknown when that audit will be released, but Portsmouth Mayor David Malone said he has a meeting next week with the Local Government Services office. He said he wasn’t sure the purpose of that meeting, and that it may or may not have something to do with the forthcoming audit.

When asked what he expected to find on the city’s financial audit, Malone was optimistic.

“I’m hopeful that it’s related to the five-year plan that we submitted to them, and I’m hopeful that they’re accepting the plan that we put forth. That’s what I’m expecting,” he said. “We’re just going to have to keep our nose to the grind and just keep working to try to position ourselves into better light for the state and for the city.”

The state also examined the city’s compliance with Ohio Sunshine laws, which require records be made available to the public. Portsmouth was one of 20 cities and counties tested by the state, and is among the 40 percent that the state found having weaknesses in their public records policies and procedures.

“It’s disappointing in this day and age with all the attention on transparency that we don’t do enough to make sure the people’s records are accessible,” Auditor Yost said. “We’ve just got to do better.”

Regarding the city’s Sunshine compliance, the audit reported, “The city’s public records policy did not state an employee or department responsible for public records requests or a method to track public records requests received by date and the fulfillment of each request. There is no consistency across the city departments for how requests should be tracked due to the fact the policy does not outline any specific guidance.”

Malone said the city would certainly consider any criteria the state recommends for improvement.

“In each department, the only tracking we do have, I guess, is e-mails,” Malone said. “If they were to develop a policy for one person, I would think it probably would be the clerk, but I can’t say for sure that that’s the answer.”

He said city has always tried to be very open and honest with the public; holding public meetings and cooperating with public records requests.

A spokesperson from the state auditor’s office this week said the complete Portsmouth audit is being finalized and will be released soon.

Ryan Scott Ottney may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or rottney@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Ryan on Twitter @PDTwriter.