Petersburg officials begin audit on city treasurer

Petersburg officials begin audit on city treasurer
Source: NBC12

PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) - The lights were on at Petersburg City Hall on Monday night because investigators were busy combing through tons of records. The city is in the middle of a forensic audit to determine what led to Petersburg's financial mess.

"The purpose of a forensic audit is to find fraud. So if you're having a forensic audit, you're going in there to prove or disprove whether fraud has occurred and were doing that in several areas of the city," said Tom Tyrell, acting city manager.

On Monday evening, the focus zeroed in on the office of the Treasurer, Kevin Brown who recently announced he won't run for re-election.

For months, city consultants have accused him of not being aggressive enough, in going after taxes or even processing payments in a timely manner, an accusation he always fired back on, saying his office is doing all it can.

"Is the treasurer cooperating? Very much. Totally cooperating, yeah," said Tyrell.

He recently ridiculed council for eliminating two positions from his office in a cost-cutting move, which is something Petersburg needs a lot of.

Auditors say the city needs to come up with some $20 million to get out of debt and create a rainy day fund, and the city still owes $1 million to the school system.

"We just want to get down into the weeds of what really happened.," said Mayor Sam Parham.

The probe comes on the very day city officials announced a new hire, Blake Rane, who comes from Florida to head Petersburg's finance department.

"We're bringing in someone with huge financial expertise. We need someone who really can keep up with what's going in and what's going out," said Parham.

In the meantime, auditors are burning the midnight oil as they pour through the treasurer's records.

"Stay tuned because things will be coming to light of what happened," said Parham

The treasurer says he welcomes the audit because it will help the city.

On Monday, council extended the acting city manager's contract for two weeks to provide a smooth transition for the incoming manager, who begins July 15.

There is no word yet on how much the acting city manager's contract extension will cost taxpayers. The city attorney says the figure is funded by tax dollars.

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