Bristol, Va City Council pursuing legal, financial audits of city’s past

BRISTOL, VA (WJHL) – Bristol, Va City Council is taking action to deal with and figure out how the city got into around $100 million in debt by approving moving forward on two new city audits.

City leaders decided Tuesday night to pursue an investigation into past financial and legal decisions, looking further into the city’s past.

Half of the reason for the city’s debt is for The Falls development project off Exit 5 off Interstate 81. That project has put the city in nearly $50 million in debt.

Tuesday, the city’s new mayor announced an aggressive plan to get Bristol, Va back on track and out of the red. Mayor Kevin Mumpower presented a list of city objectives for the fiscal year 2018 including new financial policies like starting maximum debt limit thresholds and minimum reserve fund levels.

Tuesday night city council gave the city attorney and now interim city manager Randall Eads permission to request audit proposals. Mayor Mumpower proposed two audits, council first approved a forensic financial audit starting back from 2010 right before The Falls first got started, to now.

This is in efforts to take a closer look at all transactions made by the city and where they originated.

The city also approved a forensic legal audit that could spot potential conflicts of interests, looking over contracts and documents during that same time frame.

The Falls wasn’t the only project discussed, the mayor also wants to look into all significant development projects like NuLife.

NuLife Glass was a Bristol, Va company that recently terminated all its employees and closed its doors. The city had an agreement with the company to come into the city but considered this move a breach of contract and they’re now planning to sue.

Mayor Mumpower explained what they’re hoping to get out of these audits.

“To identify high level areas we should dig into deeper so that we understand what really happened, what processes we didn’t have in place, what policies we didn’t have in place so we can understand what to do to correct that so we don’t do that again in the future,” Mayor Mumpower said.

Councilman Bill Hartley abstained in both votes for a financial and legal audit saying he’s not necessarily opposed to looking into it but he has his concerns.

“Without being able to see the exact scope of the audit that was one of my concerns the other was, of course, having an understanding of the cost of the audit and where those costs would come from,” Hartley said.

He’s hoping those questions can be answered later as these requests for proposals get started.

Council also voted to reaffirm Eads’ ability per a city charter that would allow him to issue subpoenas during the audits to get any information needed by auditors.

Mumpower says the city is building up its reserve fund and is on the right track. He’s also hoping to implement economic growth programs as part of his objectives. In addition, he’s hoping for things like neighborhood meetings and a 3-year comprehensive plan for the city.

Eads said he’d like to have these audit proposals out within the next two weeks, recommending the firms be out of the area or out of state. Eads says he’s expected to give a month to a month and a half response time, looking at around September before they have a better idea of how and who to move forward with.

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