Clerk report expected today
Nevada City will release a preliminary report today that says the city has not collected thousands of dollars in business license fees and water and sewer bills.
The report was prepared by a team of consultants who were asked to do a program audit of the office of Operations Supervisor Cathy Wilcox-Barnes, who was placed on paid administrative leave on April 25. Wilcox-Barnes also holds the elected position of city clerk.
City Manager Mark Miller said Tuesday that the city decided to initiate the investigation after the city “bounced” a $230,000 check. Wilcox-Barnes, he said, approved the check and then never informed him or others that it did not clear. A further review showed that the city had written other checks for accounts that did not have sufficient funds for those expenditures.
“I have a fiduciary responsibility to the city,” said Miller, adding that he did not believe any fraud was involved.
Miller said Wilcox-Barnes failed to notify him of the problems with the checks. The city, which has an annual budget of around $4 million, had sufficient funds to cover those expenditures although there was not enough money in the accounts at those times, the city manager said while discussing the consultants’ investigation.
Bob Austin, a consultant from Napa who has worked for schools and employee relations groups, said the investigation has also revealed that the city has not collected approximately $33,000 in business license fees in the past year. It also appears, he said, that the city has not collected as much as it should have in water and sewer bills.
Wilcox-Barnes’ office supervised billing and issuing business licenses for Nevada City.
The City Council was briefed on the investigation during a three-hour closed session on Monday night. Longtime City Councilman Steve Cottrel said it was the most emotional closed session he had ever attended.
Miller said the report will be made available at 4 p.m. today at City Hall.
The city has taken steps to secure Wilcox-Barnes’ office during the investigation, which has the consultants combing through thousands of pages of documents. No one is allowed into the office alone and the police department is overseeing security.
The city says it has provided the tools for Wilcox-Barnes to perform her duties as the city clerk, which pays $100 a month. Wilcox-Barnes has complained that the city has made it difficult to obtain documents needed to perform her elected duties.
Yolanda Bachtell, who is challenging the longtime incumbent in the upcoming election, has been sworn in by Wilcox-Barnes to be her replacement as the city clerk during the investigation.
The consultants emphasized Tuesday that the investigation is not complete.
“This has really just begun,” said Gordon E. Pitter, who was the police chief in Sebastopol and Oroville and is a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy.
“None have had this many complications,” Austin said of the investigation.
To reach staff writer Josh Singer, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4234.
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