Auditor: Explanation of Swansea’s missing records for $3.3M cancelled and never rescheduled

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Published: Aug. 5, 2022 at 8:01 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 5, 2022 at 8:52 PM EDT
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SWANSEA, S.C. (WIS) - Two members of the Swansea Town Council and the town-hired auditor said there was a meeting to discuss the town’s problematic financial record keeping, but it was cancelled and not rescheduled.

Swansea’s town government is facing scrutiny after an audit found the town did not have adequate records for $3.3 million of public assets.

Certified Public Accountant John E. Brown completed the audit in late February, but it first gained broad attention after The Post and Courier ran an article on its existence earlier this week.

It’s unclear what exactly $3.3 million represents (money or property). WIS spoke to Brown on the phone and he said he did not have immediate access to the report.

“From my recollection at this point it’s probably within tangible assets like fixed assets equipment and property and what not,” he said.

He said documentation of those assets in town audits had not been a problem in recent years, but Brown recommended the town put people with “proper education, knowledge and experience” into roles to report the town’s finances.

Brown said employee turnover may be an issue.

Brown along with Councilmembers Michael Luongo and Doris Simmons told WIS that Brown was scheduled to address the council about the audit in the spring, but the council did not have a quorum.

“Since that time I have not heard back from them,” Brown said.

The audit is the latest financial scandal for the town and divided town council. In July 2021, former Mayor Jerald Sanders was indicted for embezzlement of public funds and misconduct in office.

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His cases are still pending and WIS has no evidence the cases are related to the results of the audit.

Both Simmons and Luongo said they were looking to Mayor Viola McDaniel to reschedule with Brown.

“We’ve mentioned it to her that we need to find out what happened. She insists that she’s not going to go back and investigate, what happened in the past she’s not going to look into. We’re going forward and we’re going forward into the future,” Simmons said.

McDaniel declined to comment.

Luongo said the audit re-emerged during the ongoing readings of the towns budget, which as written now would raise millage and water fees.

“I said we need to get the auditor in here so we can ask that question, where is or what’s going on with this $3.3 million,” he said.

Simmons said she is hoping for Brown to be brought before the council and maybe more.

“We would have to do a forensic audit and they’re expensive. I don’t even know if we can afford to have one done. I don’t know, I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t know how we can get this done. [Town hall has} plenty of people in there that go back and look at everything, but these are the same people that put the information in to begin with,” Simmons said.

Luongo said if answers don’t come, he’ll contemplate legal action.

“We’ve been trying to get information even ourselves in the past, that were, were we’re told that rats have eaten it, or they don’t give us, they give us information that’s not what we were asking for or they just won’t get it to us,” he said.

Simmons said she expects the council to meet before the end of the month.

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