HOBSON CITY — The mayor on Monday night refused to release an audit of the town’s finances in 2016, the second time this year that town officials have withheld a public record accounting for those finances.
Mayor Alberta McCrory and members of the Town Council heard a presentation of the audit at a council meeting Monday night. McCrory has said that the town’s officials are “running a little bit behind” in viewing the results of the annual financial checkup that an audit represents.
The audits are performed by MDA Professional Group, an accountancy firm with an office in Anniston.
McCrory on Monday declined to release a copy of the 2016 audit, just as members of the Town Council did after an audit of 2015’s finances was presented in February.
The accountant presenting the audit provided McCrory and other officials 10 copies of the firm’s audit, but the mayor said she could not release even one because the reports contained information that only she and the council’s members were to see.
McCrory said she “did not know” what this information was — just that she’d been told before she did not have to release it. Even if a resident of the town had been present Monday night to request a copy of the audit, McCrory said “I wouldn’t give it.”
The mayor said that a digital copy of the audit could be provided after the information she referred to was removed.
Based on the accountant’s presentation to the council’s members, Hobson City’s financial outlook improved somewhat in fiscal year 2016.
The town’s total assets increased by around $29,000, the MDA accountant, Katie Condit-Brown, told officials, while the remaining balance on its only long-term debt — $17,776 left on a loan taken in previous years — was paid off.
The town’s general fund revenues decreased, Condit-Brown said, by about $14,000 — a financial impact attributed to the close in 2016 of I-20 Bingo.
The effects of leaks from the town’s water system, meanwhile, seemed to have been dulled in that fiscal year. Condit-Brown said the town’s water and sewer system revenues increased by about $11,000, and the system’s expenses decreased by about $20,000.
The council’s members had few questions about the audit’s results. Councilman Freddie Striplin congratulated McCrory on keeping Hobson City “financially strong.”
Alabama law broadly defines a public record as “any public writing of this state, unless otherwise expressly provided by statute,” and provides that any citizen should be able to inspect and take a copy of said record.
Public writings, meanwhile, are defined by law as any documents — typed or written by hand — “made in pursuance of the law” at any subsection of government.
Alabama’s attorney general in a 1981 opinion said that public agencies should provide copies of such documents for free, if possible.
In other business, the council:
— Agreed to hold a budget hearing at 6 p.m. Monday Sept. 25, before the next council meeting.
— Approved an ordinance that grants CableOne a franchising contract for cable TV and phone subscribers in Hobson City. The contract is to last 15 years, and the town receives 5 percent of the company’s gross revenues from its subscribers.
— Approved a resolution recognizing longtime former Oxford Mayor Leon Smith as a friend of Hobson City. The resolution was to be signed and then given to Smith’s family. Smith died Sunday.