Residents Seek Answers From DeSoto EDC Forensic Audit Results
DESOTO, TX – Approximately 50 residents of DeSoto gathered at the City Hall chambers last night for the rescheduled Town Hall meeting. The meeting was to discuss the results of the forensic audit related to former Economic Development Corporation Director Jeremiah Quarles.
Quarles was the city’s EDC Director from August 2013 to his last day of employment on December 2, 2016. He could be responsible for as much as $140,000 in misused taxpayer dollars. Quarles was indicted and currently paid back over $9,000.
At the beginning of the meeting June McDarby, a 20-year DeSoto resident said “We have lost trust and it just grows and grows.” Her sentiments set the tone, as residents are angry with the scope of the audit.
The auditing firm of Nelson Forensic & Advisory Services, LLC had both Alan Nelson, Managing Director, CPA, CFF and Bill Brown, Attorney, CPA explaining the audit findings.
DeSoto EDC Board President Curtis Krohn facilitated the questions for the night. A night where residents said they felt the DeSoto EDC forensic audit resulted in more questions than answers.
“I feel like we raised more questions than we got answers,” said resident Cheri Simerly who was very vocal in her questions and concerns.
“Perhaps we need to ask for a second phase audit to get the answers the citizens originally asked way back before this audit came to light,” Simerly said during open questions.
The auditors began by outlining the money spent that was questionable. They took a look at the $97,628 in severance including benefits. There were questionable travel charges that were unauthorized. Travel to destinations like West Palm Beach, Las Vegas and Orlando among other similar charges. Several sponsorships came into question paid to the Urban League in the amount of $3,659.95 and some unauthorized leave taken by Quarles did not appear to be approved.
Brown Says Audit Was Thorough But Narrow
Nelson and Brown talked about how they culled the information they found. They used an analysis of electronic data that came from three servers and a backup of Quarles user profile. The auditors also explained the timeline of the audit from January 2017 when DEDC identified unauthorized/unapproved expenses charged the DEDC by Quarles to when the forensic investigation began in September 2019.
Residents posed many new questions. By the end of the meeting, some walked away feeling the audit had not accomplished what it was intended to do. This was in part due to residents asking more probing questions about the items that were not a part of the audit, such as mobile phones and other devices.
“Why was the audit’s broad search so narrow?” one woman asked.
Brown said “I know it appears that the audit was narrow, keep in mind we were looking at the misappropriation of the money that belonged to the EDC. We looked at all the evidence we believed had a bearing on that.”
In the end, the information shared by the auditors seems to have fallen flat with those in the audience. One final sentiment offered by a resident focused on the oversight of finances. They’d like to know who was accountable for that oversight. Why wasn’t former City manager Dr. Richardson questions, several residents wonder.
Residents Question Accountability
“Where is their accountability?,” one resident asked the auditors and Krohn. “Why are they not part of the investigation too? Those who did the dirt need to be standing here right now taking full accountability.”
Furthermore, adding to the general frustration, next steps were not discussed. Residents did walk away in agreement on one thing. They feel Quarles should have to pay back the city the total amount of money he misused.
His wife, Candice Quarles remains on the City Council, and residents still want to know if she was involved. At a minimum they feel she benefited from the stolen funds and should step down from City Council.