Treasurer criticized for delay

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 14, 2008

Why doesn’t Lawrence County have direct deposit for its employees?

One Lawrence County office is pointing the finger at another for the slow speed of implementing a direct pay system for the county’s payroll.

Last week the Lawrence County Commission sent letters to Lawrence County Auditor Ray T. Dutey and Lawrence County Treasurer Stephen Dale Burcham, asking them to look into implementing such a system. Dutey’s chief deputy auditor, Chris Kline, has sent a reply letter to the commission explaining that problems in Burcham’s office are to blame for the situation.

Email newsletter signup

“We began talking about direct deposit more than two years ago.

At that time the bank told us that we would need to change the type of account we had with them in order to accommodate the direct deposit process.

In order to close out the account, and open a new account, the treasurer would have needed to be in balance and reconciled up to date with the bank, but they weren’t,” Kline said in his letter to commissioners. “Plans for direct deposit were put on hold until the treasurer’s office could get reconciled and up to date.

Meanwhile a considerable amount of time had passed, and it was about this time last year (2007) that the bank came forward and said that since we still weren’t able to switch out accounts, that they had a solution that would work with our old account type.

“We started work on the process at that time, but then another road block came up. In order for the county to distribute the tax collections in 2007, our office had to spend seven months out of 12 (months) last year reconciling and balancing the treasurer’s tax collections because they were unable to do so on their own. Our office is short staffed as it is, and makes it very hard to get our day-to-day operations done, without adding the burden of other offices.

There simply was no time to dedicate to setting up another process for the payroll department.”

Burcham acknowledged there were problems in reconciling books, but said a large part of the problem was a computer software issue. Both offices instituted a new computer system and software last year and several months into the reconciliation process, a glitch was found. The problems are being resolved.

“This is a new system and things are going to happen,” Burcham said. “This was a system that was put into place at the last minute and in the process problems occurred that would be expected in a situation of this nature.”

Burcham said he was surprised by the tone of the letter and disappointed that the letter was given to people outside the courthouse.

Kline said the auditor’s office staff has been working on a direct deposit program and it could be operational by the end of this month or early next month.