City Council has approved hiring a Raleigh certified accounting firm to help the city file its financial statements on time with the state.

Greg Isley CPA will be paid $100 an hour for its services. The move is part of a corrective action plan the city filed with the state Local Government Commission.

The LGC placed Elizabeth City on its Unit Assistance Plan in September after the city filed its 2019-20 financial statements over six months past the Jan. 31, 2021 deadline.

Part of the corrective plan includes submitting a detailed timeline of when the city will submit its financial documents to its outside auditing firm. The city also wrote to the LGC that it has scheduled interviews for a new finance director.

The new finance director will be the third since 2017 and the city said that and other turnover in the department was one cause for the late filing.

Council approved hiring Isley and submitting the corrective action plan to the LGC on a 5-1 vote with Councilor Johnnie Walton casting the only “no” vote. Councilors Billy Caudle, Jeannie Young, Michael Brooks, Chris Ruffieux and Kem Spence voted yes. Councilors Gabriel Adkins and Darius Horton were absent from last week’s meeting.

All councilors were then asked to sign the letter to the LGC.

A memo to City Council from acting City Manager Eddie Buffaloe and interim Finance Director Alicia Steward stated Isley is well known and specializes in financial statements, bank reconciliations and governmental accounting practices.

“Isley’s firm will give our unit insight on best practices to ensure timeliness of financial statements in the future,” the memo states.

Walton expressed concerns about seeing the letter of corrective action for the first time at last week’s meeting and asked what it means for “us to sign this document?”

“It means that you approve the problem statement, the root cause and what corrective action the city is going to take,” Buffaloe responded. “Hopefully, this won’t happen again.”

Walton said he didn’t know what the root problems are and wondered why he should sign a document that hadn’t been talked about yet.

Buffaloe said all of council was sent copies of the two detailed letters from the LGC saying the city was on the Unit Assistance Plan and that it was discussed at an earlier meeting that the financial statements to the state were late.

“I remember us talking about there were problems, but how far back are those problems?” Walton asked. “It shouldn’t be set up for me to sign something that I am not clear on. I am not clear on what happened in 2020. If we can hire someone to look at the records that means the records are not correct.”

Walton then asked what Isley will be looking for.

Buffaloe said the city was not put on the LGC’s watch list because of any misappropriation of funds. He said Isley will help the city prepare to audit the city’s books for 2021-22.

“It’s not that they are looking for anything,” Buffaloe said. “I brought it before council last week, or the week before, and was given instructions to contact the League of Municipalities by this council to find someone to assist our Finance Department for us to get off the UAL list. We found that person.”