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Sarasota Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011 5 years ago

FULL STORY: Judge calls auditing complaint 'meritless'

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

A circuit court judge has found no issues with Sarasota City Hall and found the claims made by a former senior internal auditor to be baseless.

The review was requested Oct. 3 by the Sarasota City Commission after former employee Maryellen McGrath resigned in September and sent commissioners an email that claimed the Auditor and Clerk’s Office was in disarray and that she had to resign because of low employee moral and auditor issues within the department.

McGrath wrote a lengthy email to commissioners after she resigned, explaining the position she formerly held should be cut “and the salary put toward a more productive, ethical and necessary department.”
McGrath questioned the way the audit regarding the Newtown youth program double-billing scandal was performed and released, claimed her audit manager, Heather Riti Essa, spends her days searching town emails and doesn’t believe the department is following proper procedures.

“The Auditor and Clerk’s Office is a liability rather than an asset to the city of Sarasota, conducting audits in a combative nature with the auditees rather than working with them,” McGrath wrote. “The approach of the audit department does not provide or suggest recommendations for improvements to the city’s processes and procedures to save the taxpayers money or provide employees with guidance on an efficient process to alleviate their workload.”

But in a report released Dec. 1, Judge Thomas Gallen said he found no issues with the department and described the remaining staff at City Hall as “proficient, professional and dedicated.”

Although Essa’s computer hard drive was taken recently as part of a separate computer forensic investigation at the request of City Manager Bob Bartolotta, Gallen called Essa “honest and straightforward.”

Gallen also wrote that McGrath was never involved with a Newtown youth program audit that she criticized and explained that McGrath’s past auditing was for public companies and that some of her auditing concerns were not relevant to municipal government operations.

McGrath would not meet with Gallen unless the city agreed to pay $400 to $500 per hour to compensate her and her attorney for the time.

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