City of Geneseo's IT audit hunts ‘ghosts’

Lisa Depies

The “ghosts” in Geneseo’s computer systems may not be so mysterious.

Previously, alderman?Keith Kennett reported to the Geneseo City Council that the city’s financial software, InCode, appeared to have “ghosts in the system.”

“InCode appears, at times, to operate with a mind of its own and requires an inordinate amount of double and triple checking to verify accuracy,” Kennett said at the time.

However, a recent review by Twin State Technical Services of Davenport, Iowa, reported answers to some of the city’s IT?(information technology) quandaries.

InCode software does allow users to tweak its performance to do certain functions.

“Someone could have modified InCode five years ago to do a task. That task may no longer be needed, but the function might have never been canceled,” explained Kennett at an Oct. 11 council meeting. “That doesn’t necessarily imply something sinister.”

Kennett said staff with Twin State reported Geneseo’s IT maintenance and security was “nearly non-existant.”

Though Kennett said the review of the IT system uncovered the “who, what, where and when” of program modifications the “why” was still unknown.

“(Police) chief (Tom)?Piotrowski has been made aware of the situation,” said?Kennett, adding the city had no further comment on exactly what matter was turned over to the police.

“The problems are not program flaws,” he said.

Staff at Twin State have temporarily become the city’s IT service providers, said Kennett. “At this time, Twin State is doing all IT administration.”

“A lot of people don’t want to hear the bad stuff that happens, but this is our responsibility to fix this,” said alderman Bob Wachtel.

Still, said alderman Curt Spensley, “The IT report came back better than most of us expected.”

As a result of the report, the city’s need for a forensic IT audit likely is unnecessary, said Kennett.

However, city aldermen are still considering a forensic financial audit for the city.

Irregularities had previously been found in the city’s motor fuel tax fund, its police fund and its pooled cash account.

Kennett said he’d like to see “a phased approach” to a financial audit, with auditors first reviewing records from 2008-09.

“Most discrepancies are related to that time frame,” he said, adding it was a time when “an environment existed where financial discrepancies could occur.”

However, he added, “We’ve found nothing to indicate anyone did anything wrong.”

Earlier, Kennett said, “From what we are able to piece together it appears monies may have been moved between funds in a type of ‘take from?Peter to pay Paul’ effort, through the use of ‘pooled accounts.’ The ultimate intention being to reimburse the account when anticipated future revenues were received.

“As the city continued to face decreased revenues from the economic downturn, however, the needed future revenues never materialized, and, consequently, it was not possible to repay the funds and bring everything into balance. This situation could explain the differences in account balances between the ledger and actual monies on hand in the pooled accounts.”

Experts on city finance records told Kennett that creating pooled accounts wasn’t in and of itself unusual.

“Pooling doesn’t necessarily mean anything happened,” he said.

Local financial firms recommended the city use RSM?McGladrey Inc’s Peoria office for its audit.

“A forensic audit of a municipality is a specialty field,” said Kennett. RSM?McGladrey staff previously performed similar audits for Sherrard and?Mercer County.

Kennett asked the council to approve RSM?McGladrey for an audit not to exceed $40,000.

Aldermen voted to table the decision because no bids were solicited for the audit.

“I can’t spend $40,000 without getting a few estimates,” said Spensley.

“There aren’t a lot of firms around that do this type of work,” said Kennett. “And it doesn’t lend itself to bidding like a piece of equipment, because we’re dealing with a lot of unknowns here.”

Still, aldermen unanimously agreed to table the issue until the next council meeting.

Aldermen also voted to table a request to remove alderman Ed Deener from the chairmanship or vice chairmanship of city boards and to discontinue his service as the city’s liaison to the Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

A letter signed by aldermen Spensley, Lowell?Ewert, Arnie Schmid, Karen West and Josh Pierce was delivered earlier to Geneseo mayor Linda Van Der Leest.

The letter expresses those five aldermen’s displeasure with Deener’s “negativity and unprofessional actions.”

The issue was tabled after Van Der Leest asked for additional time to talk with the city’s attorney Margaret Kostopulos of Ancel Glink.

City attorney Virgil?Thurman had a prior commitment and could not attend the Oct. 11 council meeting. He also requested that the motion be tabled until he was able to be present.

At the Oct. 11 meeting, aldermen also:

• Approved lifting the hiring freeze to move a current part-time dispatcher to a full-time position to replace a retiring full-time dispatcher who is requesting to maintain employment as a part-time dispatcher.

• Voted to rebate 20 percent of the Geneseo Public Library District’s building permit fee. The amount rebated is $1,507.

• Approved a request for a new sign at B&B?Lawn Equipment and Cyclery on Chicago Street.

• Approved Payment Estimate?No. 5 for Country Manor Phases IV and V in the amount of $226,065 for Centennial Contractors.

• Lifted the hiring freeze to replace two retiring wastewater operators.

• Lifted the hiring freeze to replace the city’s building inspector, Kent Anderson, who plans to retire early next year.