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Director of Public Utilities no longer employed by county

Director of Public Utilities no longer employed by county

Recent revelations of fiscal mismanagement continue to plague the department

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The director of Goochland County’s Public Utilities Department—a department that has been the target of a recent administrative investigation—lost his job last week after an audit revealed that at least $150,000 in utility connection fees were not deposited over the past two years.

The county will not disclose the exact reason for the departure of Doug Harvey, former County Engineer and Director of Public Utilities, but mismanagement of the county’s assets appears to be a primary factor in the decision.

According to District 4 Supervisor Rudy Butler, more uncashed checks, possibly totaling as much as $15,000, might have been discovered after the audit was completed.

“I think they found some after the audit, stuck into files,” he said. “That’s why I don’t think the audit was a good audit.”

The audit report was prepared by Robinson, Farmer, Cox Associates, a firm hired by the county at a cost of $3,000, to review and assess the utility department’s handling of fees in fiscal years 2007 and 2008. The audit recommended that the county develop a better system of recording and billing utilities customers.

In an internal memo sent to all county personnel on Dec. 12, County Administrator Gregory K Wolfrey announced that utility billing and purchasing have been transferred to the finance department. And, the formerly separate utility department has been transformed into a division of the community development department.

For right now Harvey’s position will not be filled, said Wolfrey.

“The finance department has taken over utilities,” he said, “and for engineering work (utility engineer) Matthew Saccone will be running that part of the shop.”

Both Wolfrey and Board Chairman William E. Quarles Jr. said that Public Utilities may be a standalone department again in the future.

“Under (Director of Community Development) Don Charles’ auspices, we’ll develop policies and procedures for that agency,” said Quarles. “After all that has taken place, it may become a separate entity again.”

Quarles said that he was surprised by the report of fiscal mismanagement. “Is that acceptable? No.”

When asked why the audit, which was ordered by Wolfrey, only covered the past two years, Quarles said, “I think he (Wolfrey) did what was reasonable to evaluate the current condition. It may be looked at by the Commonwealth Attorney, and if he wants to take it further, he will certainly do that if appropriate.”

He added, “We want to make sure that reporting schemes are crisp and consistent so that one, this doesn’t happen again, and two, policies are in place so that people know what the expectations are, in terms of protocol.”

Butler said he wonders if county employees like Harvey have received the supervision and support necessary to run their departments efficiently. “I think Harvey did a good job. He needed to be managed more, maybe… I would think this goes from the top down.”

“The question that lingers in my mind,” he added, “is did we try to work with him? I’ve lost a little faith in how we do things and I think the public has, too.”

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