HOOVER — The City of Hoover is in Week 2 of hearings of a contested Certificate of Need. Testimony from Mayor Frank Brocato last week included claims of alleged blackmail, allegations that prompted a detailed denial by lobbyist Pat Lynch. 

Additional testimony by City Councilwoman Khristi Driver revealed publicly for the first time that the City of Hoover is undergoing a forensic audit by a new firm "hired through legal council."

When initially asked about the existence of a forensic audit, Driver requested to confer with her council. After a short back-and-forth between attorneys and the presiding administrative law judge, it was determined that she meant the city's attorney, Phillip Corley, and a five-minute recess was called. 

Driver testified that she was "not sure who gave the instruction, but the council is aware," of the audit and identified the firm conducting it as Kroll. 

On Monday, June 3, the City Council passed a resolution amending the budget to add an additional $500,000. In a Facebook discussion on the vote, City Councilman Casey Middlebrooks noted the amount spent to date, including $767,628 to Wallace Jordan, with a note that it was for the City Attorney. It is unclear if that amount includes money for the forensic audit. 

A review of previous audits shows that Barfield, Murphy, Shank & Smith (BMSS) Advisors and CPAs have performed the City of Hoover's audits since the 2016 report. The change came after the last BMSS report, which included a "finding" of problems the then-CFO disagreed with. 

Driver testified, "My understanding of the purpose of the audit would be to take a look at all of our financials to make sure that everything is in order and to follow up on some of the observations that were made in our most recent audit from our regular auditor."

According to their website, Kroll's forensic investigators and analysts deal with complex challenges, including "fraud, corruption and money laundering, intelligence, transactions and due diligence, reputational risk, regulatory and compliance risk, litigation and disputes and information and IP risk."

According to the Hoover Sun, the last audit report for fiscal 2022 noted "some material weaknesses and significant deficiencies in the city's internal controls. 

The material weaknesses included insufficient segregation of duties over financial reporting by an outsourced contractor at the Hoover Metropolitan Complex and errors and problems related to implementing a new business software system. The significant deficiencies dealt with the recording of accounts receivable transactions and the holding of checks for vendors." 

Despite the concerns in the audit report, the Sun reported at the time that Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato "was not alarmed." 

The forensic audit issue was not mentioned at this week's council meeting or in the discussion of the increased budget request for legal fees.

Apryl Marie Fogel is a Birmingham resident who frequently appears on and guest hosts radio programs around the state. She can be reached at aprylmarie@altoday.com or on X and Facebook at @aprylmarie.

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