The Fairmont City Council acted on Councilor Ruth Cyphers’ request for a state forensic audit of the city’s finances. City Administrator Mike Humpal said there is a required resolution that must be submitted to the state auditor’s office and an affidavit assembled. He asked the council to direct city staff to put that information together to make the request.
“City staff is 100 percent supportive of any type of audit the council wants to do and to show the general public and the citizens that there no irregularities in our finances,” Humpal said. “We’re more than happy to work with legal counsel to make sure you have the proper resolution prepared and the proper affidavit prepared.”
Counilor Cyphers said the city has had the same auditor for many years and her request would involve a deeper look at the books. Instead of a forensic audit, she changed her request for an audit to be done under state statute.
Lubenow supported the audit. He also lobbied for changing the city’s auditor every five years or so.
Paul Hoye, city finance director, said the auditors have changed over the years, even if the same firm is used. Humpal said that five auditors come for five days every March and scrutinize the city’s books.
The council unanimously passed the directive to have city staff begin the process.
Fairmont’s interim legal counsel, Flaherty & Hood of St. Paul, has requested that the city update its data practice policy, as well as its general records retention schedule, and re-appoint Patty Monsen, city clerk, as the responsible authority for the state’s data practices act.
Mike Humpal, City Administrator, said the city’s policy and the Fairmont Police Department policies are different. The law firm recommended scrapping the policies and adopting a new policy in the interest of time, efficiency and money. The proposed new policy is consistent with the State Department of Administrative Services, which is in charge of oversight.
The policy also would make the responsible authority the city clerk, eliminating the need for anyone at the Law Enforcement Center to fill a data request for information, and update the records retention practices, which change with time and technology, such as police body cameras.
“I’m not in favor of doing this right now. I think we ought to wait until the data requests die down and we get our permanent city attorney in place,” said Councilor Tom Hawkins, referring to the council’s intention to hire a permanent civil attorney at the beginning of 2020. “I don’t think we’re in any peril by waiting.”
Councilor Randy Lubenow took issue with the $40 per hour charge for fulfilling data requests, suggesting that the lowest-paid person fill the requests instead. Humpal said data requests involve more than just making copies, and the state requires a responsible authority, the city clerk, to gather the information.
Counilor Wayne Hasek made a motion to adopt the new policies, and Peters offered a second, but the motion failed when Hawkins, Lubenow and Cyphers voted no.