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Lawrence 'finds' $1 million
Most commissioners unaware of CDs, while some bills delinquent, paid late

By Nancy Glasscock
nglasscock@decaturdaily.com 340-2443

MOULTON — While the Lawrence County Commission is apparently having trouble paying its bills, the county has more than $1 million in certificates of deposit at local banks, Commissioner John Terry said Monday.

Terry said he recently discovered 11 CDs from $1,100 to $500,000 at Citizens Bank, Regions, Bank Independent and CBS Bank in Moulton that a majority of the commission didn't know about.

In October, he found $300,000 in CDs at a Decatur bank. Terry said he found out about the other CDs by checking with banks in the area.

Meanwhile, Alabama Department of Revenue monthly and quarterly reports for the county haven't been filed or paid since March, and unemployment filings and payments haven't been made for the second and third quarters, County Administrator Peggy Dawson said. Also, a workers compensation premium bill sent to former County Administrator Linda Harville in September was not paid, and may result in a $4,000 penalty, Dawson said.

Dawson said she discovered the outstanding bill when she researched a refund check the county office received.

Terry said the county will probably be responsible for paying about $20,000 in penalties for late payments.

Harville was to retire Oct. 1, but the commission terminated her employment in late September after FBI agents found an illegal monitoring system in the commission building. The commission also terminated the contract of former Assistant Administrator Karen Harrison in September.

Dawson has been the county administrator since early this month.

The commission recently found bills that were due Oct. 31 and checks months old that hadn't been deposited, Terry said.

"The taxpayers will pay a lot because somebody wasn't doing their job, and I think the commission needs to be aware of that," he said.

Terry said Harville wouldn't give commissioners information about the county's finances.

"You could ask, but Mrs. Harville would not give us the information," he said.

He said he once recommended in an executive session that the commission fire Harville for insubordination.

Commission Chairman Bradley Cross said Lawrence County's financial situation seems worse than it is. The county has money in different accounts that can be transferred to pay bills, he said.

"This bear is not as big as it seems," he said.

Terry said he and commissioners Harold LouAllen, Alma Whitlow and Mose Jones said they didn't know about the CDs. Cross said he knew about some of the CDs.

"We need to know what we have in those accounts," Terry said. "If we cannot get a handle on it, then we need to suspend writing checks until we find out what we have."

The largest of the CDs is for about $500,000 for the county landfill, Terry said.

"We have to keep a half million in reserve in case something goes wrong, so I have no problem with that," he said.

Another CD for $130,000 had been in reserve for the Emergency Management Agency in case of a disaster, Terry said. Another CD belongs to the district attorney's office, he said.

"We don't know how much belongs to the commission office itself," Terry said.

Some of the CDs had been purchased in the late 1970s and '80s, he said.

Instead of having CDs in several banks, Terry recommended the commission solicit bids and move the CDs to the bank with the highest interest rate by January. The commission unanimously approved the recommendation.

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