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April 27, 2018

County Treasurer failed to deposit checks; audit taking place

Billiter says she will get 'everything straightened out'; Deskins says 'no money missing'

The Pike County Fiscal Court has spent the past couple of months working on its budget. During that time, magistrates have asked on several occasions how much money the county has and how much is being spent, to which County Treasurer Johnda Billiter declared the county to be in a state of surplus.

Pike Treasurer Johnda Billiter agreed to have all discrepancy corrected by next week. Pike Treasurer Johnda Billiter agreed to have all discrepancy corrected by next week. However, according to records obtained by the Appalachian News-Express, the county’s financial standing may include more money than was recorded. Several entities within the county have noted that checks written from their accounts to the fiscal court, going as far back as October 2017, had not been cashed. Billiter told the News-Express she is currently working to get things back in order.

One check from the Pike County Clerk’s Office, dated for Oct. 3, 2017, two checks dated for Oct. 4, 2017 and one check dated for Oct. 9, 2017 all “cleared the bank” on Feb. 4, 2018, according to a statement from the Clerk’s Office. Those checks accounted for a combined total of $76,317.89. However, no check dated after Oct. 9, 2017 had been cashed as of presstime Wednesday, according to those records. The remaining 14 checks to the court were listed as uncashed, resulting in a total of $314,237.53.

According to documents retrieved by the News-Express from the Pike County Sheriff’s Office, the fiscal court also has an excess of uncashed checks from the detention center. The records showed that the sheriff's office had written a total of $643,786.44 in checks to the fiscal court since February 2018, none of which, according to records, had been cashed as of April 19.

Records retrieved from the Pike County Detention center show that checks written from that entity to the fiscal court had also gone uncashed. Those records show seven uncashed checks, totaling $20,577.63, written to the fiscal court from the jail since October 2017.

The three combined entities have claimed that a grand total of $978,601.60 in checks has remained uncashed.

County Deputy Judge-Executive Herbie Deskins said that while Billiter failed to deposit checks in a timely manner, no money is missing.County Deputy Judge-Executive Herbie Deskins said that while Billiter failed to deposit checks in a timely manner, no money is missing.The News-Express reached out to Billiter April 5, in order to get the fiscal court records, but that request has gone unfulfilled as of April 19. Deputy Judge-Executive Herbie Deskins said the delay was due to some issues in Billiter’s personal life.

“She’s had some personal problems, but we just said we need to comply with all of these things and get everything straightened up,” Herbie Deskins told the News-Express. “I don’t know what her timetable is. That’s the bad thing about just having one treasurer. But, she has said that she’s got everything coming.”

Herbie Deskins said the fiscal court was made aware of an issue with its accounts when the bank called to inform them that the county’s account had overdrawn.

“So, I talked with her and (Judge-Executive Bill Deskins) talked with her, and she said she’s going to get everything done,” Herbie Deskins said. “We both said, ‘If you need help, we’ll give you help.’ But, she said, ‘No, I can work it out.’ That’s the extent of my working with her.”

Herbie Deskins said he could advise Billiter on how to move forward, but the magistrates on the court would be in charge of making sure she followed through. He also said no time constraints were included in the discussion, just an agreement that she would “get caught up.”

The 2016-2017 audit showed that Billiter has not been compliant in paying bills in a timely manner, which the county claimed was due to software issues. Billiter, according to Herbie Deskins, has been working on addressing the issues of that audit, which has taken up the majority of her time. He said the court has not had this type of issue with Billiter’s work in the past, saying it’s “out of character” for her and citing her recent personal issues as the cause. 

When asked how the court would address the issues with the uncashed checks, Herbie Deskins said someone would have to inform the magistrates of the problem first. 

“I think, when this becomes known, they’ll have to act pretty fast and pretty stern,” Herbie Deskins said. “She just told us the other day in the fiscal court that we had money … that we had a $1 million surplus.”

He said he doesn’t know if anyone else is privy to the financial situation of the county, adding that Billiter and Finance Director Frankie Stacy are the only two people who have access to the checks and ledgers.

Billiter told the News-Express this is not what she wanted her legacy to be as county treasurer. She said recent issues within her life have created a distraction for her, making it harder to focus on her duties as treasurer.

“Since December, I’ve just been a basket case,” Billiter said. “I’ve tried to pull myself together and I’m trying to get everything caught up. I don’t want to leave it in the shape I’ve put it.”

According to Billiter, even with the checks sitting in the vault, the county’s financial situation is stable. The solid waste account for the county is currently sitting at $601,663.11 and the consolidated account is sitting at $498,839.06, according to Billiter. She said the uncashed checks will be an addition to the current balance, but are not negatively impacting the county’s current finances.

Billiter told the Lexington Herald-Leader this week she hoped to have all the checks deposited within a week, and that she apologized to the county’s magistrates for the delay.

County Deputy Judge-Executive Herbie Deskins said that while Billiter failed to deposit checks in a timely manner, no money is missing.

Billiter, who has served as Pike County’s treasurer since 1986, told The Herald-Leader she plans to retire in December.

 

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