Auditor: questionable practices in Douglass’ Ag Dept

CHARLESTON – An audit of the practices of the Department of Agriculture under the leadership of former Commissioner Gus Douglass produced findings of unspecified “very troubling activities and management practices” involving “questionable accounting methods, expense reimbursements and loans administered by the agency,” according to a press release from House Speaker Tim Miley.

The information has been turned over to federal prosecutors.

Commissioner Walt Helmick said in a press release that he ordered the audit at the beginning of his term in office. Helmick was elected in 2012.

“Upon being sworn into office as Agriculture Commissioner last January one of my first official acts was to request an audit of the agency,” Commissioner Helmick said in a press release. “We support that decision 100 percent and the Agriculture Department will do whatever is needed to assist in this investigation.”

Miley described ordering an audit when taking office as “pretty standard,” meant to give a new officeholder “a perspective from which to begin operating and managing the agency.”

Helmick, Miley and Senate President Jeff Kessler promised legislative reform and cooperation with law enforcement.

“Neither President Kessler, Commissioner Helmick, nor I tolerate any activities that lack integrity or violate the public trust,” said Miley. “We will continue to provide law enforcement with any information necessary to assist in its investigation.  Meanwhile, as we await completion of the audit, President Kessler and I will be working with Commissioner Helmick to facilitate any legislative changes necessary to ensure greater accountability and to tighten statutory controls over the activities identified in the audit.”

— Bryan Clark

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