Meeks seeks probe

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Features Editor

When Pike County Commissioner Larry Meeks leaves office he doesn’t want to leave with a black eye.

That’s why he is calling for an investigation into "an unauthorized and illegal" pay raise that was cited in the audit report of the Pike County Commission by the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts filed June 28, 2002.

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The audit was for the period of Oct. 1, 2000 through Sept. 30, 2001 and included "findings" in four areas, including one of special concern to Meeks.

The finding as stated in the audit report was that an employee was assigned to the duties of a temporarily vacated position and that the temporary assignment and the related pay increase were not properly documented in the employee’s personnel file. This action was authorized by the commission chairman and was not in the minutes of the commission’s meeting.

The commission chairman of record at that time was Willie Thomas.

"I want an investigation into the actions that were committed and what wrong doing there was, if any," Meeks said. "The temporary assignment and the related pay increase were not brought before the commission. The commission chairman made that decision and he was not authorized to do that. I would want an investigation of the incident and into what needs to be done to totally correct this situation."

Meeks said he wants to make sure something like this never happens again.

"If it happens once, you have to wonder if it’s happened before," he said. "We – I say we because I’m not alone this – we

are going to the district attorney, the association of county commissioners in Montgomery and our county attorney will advise us. As far as I’m concerned this is serious. Anytime something happens that the commission body doesn’t know about, it’s serious to me."

Meeks said he is going to ask for an immediate investigation of the finding.

"I’m not going to sweep anything under the rug," he said. "This was an unauthorized pay raise and both parties knew the correct procedure for such an act. I understand the money has been paid back, and that makes me think they knew it was wrong. If what they did was perfectly legal, why didn’t they fight it. Another question I have, is if the audit had not found the unauthorized, illegal pay raise, would the money have been paid back? No. I want to get to the bottom of this. I don’t want this to happen on my watch."

Meeks said it is very important for the people of Pike County to be aware of what is going on with the county commission.

"After all, it’s the people’s money and they deserve to know how it’s being spent and why," he said. "When I leave office,

I want the people to say Larry Meeks did the best job he could do. If that means, calling someone’s hand on an issue, then that’s what I’m going to do."

Pike County Commission Chairperson Karen Berry said the audit reports of all governmental agencies are given to the grand jury as a matter of routine procedure. The grand jury will determine if there is cause for further action to be taken on any findings in the report.

Berry had no other comment other than to say that Allen Jones, the county attorney, is aware of the audit findings and the procedures involved.

Commissioner Willie Thomas could not be reached for comment.