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Auditor reports financial mistakes to Ludowici council
Liquor sales referendum, alley reopening tabled
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The Ludowici City Council on Tuesday heard from City Auditor Christopher Lightle, who recently reviewed Ludowici’s books. He reported to the council that he encountered several issues of concern.

One of the most glaring problems, according to the auditor, was the city’s failure to adopt a budget or a continuing resolution for fiscal year 2011. As a result, he said, city leaders had no authority to spend any money that year. Also during FY 2011, Lightle said, invoices were approved and paid out by the city without department heads’ consent.

Additionally, $60,000 was paid in full and up front for a contracted service. The auditor advised the council against paying for a job before the work was completed.

Lightle also found that a former city employee authorized a $500-$600 loan to another employee. The loan is being paid back, but it was not approved by the council.

A plan to correct the errors has been put in place, the auditor said, but to prevent future errors he recommended better management and control procedures and better employee training.

The council also heard and tabled a request for allowing a hard-liquor sales referendum on the November ballot.

Sean Tucker asked council members to let voters decide the issue. Tucker, who owns the Brown Bagger beer and wine store in Ludowici, said that allowing liquor sales would generate more tax revenue for the city and encourage growth.

“I won’t sanction anything to put liquor in Ludowici,” Mayor James Fuller said.

Tucker also asked the council to open an alley adjacent to the Brown Bagger to provide an additional entry and exit point, giving customers easier and safer access. He said the current setup hampers his business and creates congestion for patrons. The alley was open until three years ago but was deeded out in 2009, said Tucker, who added that the alley’s closing came as a surprise to him. He learned about it through a Coastal Courier story.

Fuller replied that even though the action was approved by the previous city council, he remembered Tucker and Shad Dasher both agreeing to the transaction when it was approved. According to Dec. 22, 2008 Courier story, the alley, which stretches about 200 feet, was sold to Tucker and Dasher for $1 each. Both men requested the sale and closure of the alley because, according to the article, it no longer was used by traffic.

Tucker also told the council that even though the land was approved to be deeded to him and Dasher in 2008, the transaction never was filed. City clerk Cindy McClelland confirmed that the transaction had not been filed by the previous city attorney, but the oversight was only discovered recently when Tucker requested the alley’s reopening. Dasher said he’s against the reopening because his children play on that land, and he’s concerned Brown Bagger customers who have been drinking might drive down the alley and endanger others.

After a brief discussion, both the liquor ordinance and alley reopening were tabled. They will be decided on during the council’s September meeting.

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