Kentucky Auditor Mike Harmon’s office has issued its report on Pike County Clerk Rhonda Taylor’s office for 2018, finding a significant deficiency in the office’s internal control — a deficit in its “75 percent fund” or operating fund at the end of the year.
According to the report, at the end of the year, Taylor’s office had a $24,722 deficit in the operating fund.
In her response, Taylor said her office had an “excellent audit” despite the deficit.
“The Pike County Clerk’s Office prides itself with abiding by Kentucky Audit practices,” Taylor responded. “No money has been lost or mismanaged, as audit reports have confirmed.”
Taylor blamed three factors for the deficit in her response: Terminated supplemental funding from the previous Pike County Fiscal Court; a decrease in the county’s population; and an apparent economic downturn for our region of the state.”
“It appears that the previous fiscal court evidently did not realize the detrimental impact that eliminating supplemental funding would cause,” Taylor wrote in her response. “For almost three decades, supplemental funding has been critical for the operations of an office this size.”
While Taylor partially placed the blame on the fiscal court in her response to Harmon’s office, during a heated exchange with then-fiscal court members in 2015, she said that her office would be “alright” without the funding.
During a discussion over the state of the budget, then-Dist. 6 Magistrate Bobby Varney brought up to Taylor comments he had heard attributed to her that she didn’t, “need the fiscal court.”
“You give me a supplement, but if you cut if off, which I heard you probably will, that will be alright, too,” Taylor told Varney. “I’ll have to make do with what I’ve got.”
In January 2016, the court announced it was cutting the supplement after Taylor submitted a budget that included the $110,000 supplement.
“You said you didn’t need it, that you could operate without our money,” Varney told Taylor during that subsequent meeting. “So, I didn’t hesitate to cut that supplement.”
Taylor responded that, while she could operate the clerk’s office without the additional $110,000, it will cause the office to operate at a loss.
“I want people to know that the clerk’s office will probably be operating in the red by next fall,” Taylor said. “But, that’s okay. It’s not my fault, and I guess you have done all you can do. Maybe next year you will be out of the hole, and can give me a little more money.”
In January of this year, Taylor informed the new administration she cannot function without the supplement.
“The clerk’s office cannot function without supplement, it just can’t,” she said. “The only way it can is to have another layoff, close offices out in the county, period. I mean, we’re just going to have the main county seat office. I’m already doing pay cuts in this budget I’ve submitted to you and I’m doing a few layoffs also, but it’s going to take more than what I’ve actually submitted to keep us afloat. Our office is pretty much crippled right now without supplement money.”
She echoed that comment in her response to Harmon’s report.
“I continue to look for ways to reduce expenses even though we are gravely understaffed,” her response said. “I realize the current Pike County Fiscal Court has only been in office for six months and they continue to review the budget issues they have inherited. However, reinstatement (of) supplemental funding is necessary for the Pike County Clerk’s Office to fulfill its duties to the citizens of this county and continue to advance with the rest of state.”