A final forensic study of the Williamsburg County Transit Authority (WCTA) has revealed a complete mess. Williamsburg County Supervisor Tiffany Wright initiated the investigation into WCTA in August 2019, after complaints were filed regarding lost wages.
The path it has taken since the initial investigation has snowballed into a litany of violations, improper sale of a vehicle and serious internal control issues. The 45-page document presented by CPA Janet Hicks of the firm Hicks Guerry Group to Williamsburg County Council on February 18, covers a 12-month period from June 30, 2018 through June 30, 2019.
The formal report obtained by The News through the Freedom of Information Act reveals the sale of and proper custody of assets are in disarray. For example, 109 tags were lying around, 58 of those are still listed as active with the S.C. Highway Department. There are only 39 vehicles with active tags.
The findings show a significant number of disbursements were being paid directly to former Assistant Director Diana White and former Executive Director Michael Burgess rather than to a specific vendor and the reimbursements did not contain the proper documentation to substantiate reimbursement. This led to an extended study to specifically look at all travel and meals reimbursed to White and Burgess. They found $8,765.28 paid out by WCTA did not contain the proper documentation. Issues include gift cards and questionable driving records. Burgess is reported to have purchased a total of $12,050 gift cards on November 26, 2018, from IDT Payment Services, which was in direct violation of county policy and federal payroll laws. Employees received 25 cards totaling a value of $6,850; however, 25 cards valued at $5,200 are unaccounted for.
A sample of one driver’s route manifest report verses payroll records for a 14-week period from June 30, 2019, through October 6, 2019, show the driver had actual run times of 391 hours, downtime of 459 hours (periods where his/her route had a longer than 1.5 hour break) and the employee was paid for 657 hours.
The report stated that a running worksheet of the monthly purchases and work orders should closely reconcile to the physical count when counted for audit purposes. However, the report shows the value of inventory that should have been on hand was $15,285.89 but the value of the physical count performed was only $7,857.27.
Eight vehicles that had been disposed of at an auction company were still listed on the auditor’s depreciation schedule. The proceeds from the sales were not properly classified. One of the vehicles, a Ford Crown Victoria was sold through auction on June 7, 2018. The investigation states that Burgess sold the vehicle outside of normal auction protocol and did not have the authority to do so.
Burgess executed the Bill of Sale and signed the title over during the transaction. It was determined that the person to whom the vehicle was sold did not title the vehicle into his name until February 4, 2019 and then on February 9, sold the same vehicle to a Williamsburg County Councilmember who also serves on the Transit Authority as chairman, for significantly less that the purchase price. According to the study, on June 18, the vehicle was sold by Transit for $2,500. Eight months later it sold for $800 to a second individual.
Wright ran on a platform of transparency and promised to fix problems within the government. The audit was an eye opener. “This brought me to an understanding that we just have to be mindful of how we all do business and making sure we all do it in proper order,” said Wright. “The stuff that you do can be interpreted as being not done correctly if we don’t follow proper policies and procedures that have been put in place.”
Wright said she would submit the information to the Williamsburg County Sheriff’s Office. “I don’t have the level of expertise to determine if anything criminal in nature occurred,” said Wright. “I have to forward it all on to him and from that point he’ll do whatever he needs to do.” Wright has expanded the study to include other departments such as Drug and Alcohol Abuse and Economic Development.