City of Kensett responds to state audit report findings

Published 6:06 pm Thursday, February 27, 2020

By Jared McNett, Mason City Globe Gazette

On Feb. 19, State Auditor Rob Sand’s office released five separate reports covering specific city, county and commission activity across the state and outlining possible issues in those areas.

One of those five focused on a one-year stretch of time, from July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019, in the North Iowa community of Kensett, and what it found were issues with the local government division of duties, as well as reports not being prepared and council minutes not being published.

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In total, the audit report had 22 findings with recommendations accompanying each one. Not requirements or mandates, but recommendations.

The city of Kensett’s mayor, Corey Pulju, and its city clerk, Lori McNally, don’t necessarily dispute the findings, but take issue with some of the recommendations and the idea that there are problems with the city’s fiscal responsibility.

“Almost all of these issues were procedural and not financial,” McNally repeatedly said. She added that even some of the issues that the audit report raised were actually addressed by the city, just not in the manner state officials preferred.

For example, the report recommended that Kensett officials should reconcile bank and investment account balances with the general ledger on a monthly basis and resolve any discrepancies in a timely fashion.

“They were always reconciled, they just weren’t on the day they wanted,” McNally said.

According to her, in the 28 years she’s worked for the city, there’s never been an auditing issue. The local government is small, with four part-time employees, but not plagued with problems. And she went further to say that if anything she was doing was a part of the problem, she would take steps to rectify that almost immediately.

“If I wasn’t loyal to my town, I would’ve come back to my office, locked the door and never come back,” McNally said.

Though Pulju hasn’t been involved with the local government as long as McNally, he also said that these aren’t debilitating issues.

“Most of the stuff is easily corrected in the future,” Pulju asserted. And some of that can be handled when the town has its council meeting in March.

Even though there’s no timeline to act on the state audit report, Pulju and McNally mentioned they’ll work to address what are the more pressing issues.

“It’ll be done as time permits. I am a part-time city clerk,” McNally said. “What needs to be done will be done.”

Both McNally and Pulju also took care to say that such a report isn’t an indictment on their town.

“It’s just a reflection of how small we are and we make due with what we’ve got,” Pulju said.

McNally was even more succinct in her framing of the audit: “It doesn’t reflect on the city of Kensett.”

The state audit was part of a so-called “periodic examination” and is done as a way to provide oversight of Iowa cities.