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Emergency Audit Finds City Assessor Doing Satisfactory Job

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After using emergency procedures to launch an audit of the city real estate assessor's office by a private firm in March, the administration of Mayor L. Douglas Wilder took its time releasing the findings.

Richmond Assessor James Hester did not receive a copy of the report from administration officials until Oct. 10, a month and a half after it was finished.

The report on the study, conducted by the private Washington, D.C., accounting firm Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio & Associates, showed a completion date of Aug. 31. Auditors from the firm delivered a PowerPoint presentation to administration officials Sept. 25.

Chief Financial Officer Harry Black's emergency contract with the private accounting firm cost $269,000. When the contract was issued, City Council had already scheduled an audit of the assessor's office with the International Association of Assessing Officers for the fall and had budgeted $45,000 for the work. Thompson, Cobb subcontracted the audit to a consultant affiliated with the association.

City Council President Bill Pantele says at the time he was surprised to learn of the Wilder administration's plans to hire a firm to subcontract with the very same people council attempted to hire.

"Where's the value for the other $200,000?" Pantele asks. "That's a question I'm still waiting to have answered."

The study found that the office was run in a satisfactory manner and that staff was appropriately skilled, though the office should exploit existing technology better and launch a public-relations program. S



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