Twiggs commissioner: County voted to overpay accounting firm

alopez@macon.comJanuary 23, 2014 

A Twiggs County commissioner says the county will overpay an accounting firm by tens of thousands of dollars for financial work in advance of the county’s annual audit.

Last year, Twiggs County paid TJS Demmer, an accounting firm based in Dublin, more than $60,000 to prepare its books for a required state audit. This year, the company agreed to keep its fee closer to $58,000.

Commissioners Donald Floyd, William Bond and Chairman Ken Fowler voted Tuesday to accept the bid.

Commissioner Donald Watson, who voted against hiring the Demmer firm, instead wanted to hire Chris Bowen, a retired chief financial officer and former certified public accountant who said he could do the job at a lower cost. Bowen told commissioners he could do the work for $15,000.

A vote to accept Bowen’s bid failed.

“I could have saved the county $45,000,” Bowen said by phone Thursday.

Bowen, who has lived in Twiggs County for six years, actually worked with the county’s financial records in 2013 as a consultant on a contract basis.

In the few months he worked with the county, Bowen says he found $48,000 in landfill revenue owed to Twiggs. He said he also negotiated with SunTrust Bank to cut its fees by $800 per month.

“He did an excellent job,” Watson said.

Bowen said he already has done half the work required to get the county ready for the state audit and would guarantee the audit would go smoothly by offering to pay any unforeseen costs out of his $15,000 fee.

Watson said he questioned the representative from TJS Demmer, formerly known at Thigpen, Jones, Seaton & Co., and learned that the firm has been preparing Fowler’s taxes for 25 years. He said he asked Fowler to recuse himself from voting due to his business relationship with TJS Demmer, but Fowler declined.

“I have no comment,” Fowler said when reached by phone for comment Thursday.

Bond said he voted in favor of the Demmer firm because the firm had better qualifications than Bowen.

Likewise, Floyd said he might have voted for Bowen if his certified public accountant license was current. Commissioner Tommie Lee Bryant, who did not vote in favor of Demmer, declined to comment.

Watson disagreed with the comments from his fellow commissioners about Bowen’s qualifications.

He said a certified public accountant license is required of the person doing the state audit, but not of the person preparing the books.

The county commission came under fire in recent months after the county public library closed for a week due to funding issues. Amidst an outcry, commissioners declined to provide emergency funding to the library. Instead, they found previously allocated money that was unaccounted for by library officials.

Commissioners emphasized the importance of being diligent with taxpayer money.

The current board was voted into office with the task of cutting back on spending, Watson said.

Walt Ashby, a retired businessman who attended Tuesday’s meeting, said commissioners are not considering taxpayer pockets at all.

He said the board is currently taking bids on private ambulance services for the county, and he is worried it will accept the most expensive one.

“They’re out there spending money unwisely,” Ashby said.

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