Covington’s finances get clean audit for first time in 20 years; six business incentives approved

By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune reporter

For the first time in more than 20 years, the City of Covington’s financial books have been found to be in “acceptable, professional” order.

And that, Mayor Joseph U. Meyer says, is no small feat.

The findings came out during a Fiscal Year 2023 Financial Audit presentation made by representatives of the independent accounting firm of Barnes Dennig.

Commissioners heard the presentation during their regularly scheduled legislative meeting this week.

City of Covington commission meeting. (NKyTribune photo)

Meyer eluded to the findings last month at another meeting, when he noted there was “cause for great celebration,” he said. “There are no findings in the audit — no significant deficiencies. It’s the first time in a long time that the city has had that and it’s a cause for great celebration …. I hope it’s a new standard that will be met annually.”

“I didn’t specifically call out the terms ‘material weaknesses’ or ‘significant deficiencies’ … there were not any of either found,” said Morgan Ryle, a certified public accountant with Barnes Dennig. “Again, it seems that any that were there historically have been cleared up. The city, overall, has done a great job to mitigate those deficiencies and we did not see any in our testing this year.”

But there was some clean-up to do from last audit, which found deficiencies in audit adjustments, credit card controls, accounting software controls, and Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds.

All issues were resolved, according to the presentation.

“In Covington’s recent history, this is the first audit since at least 2012, and according to (Finance Director) Mr. (Steve) Webb’s analysis, since perhaps 1995, that the city received a clean audit — no weaknesses, no deficiencies,” Mayor Meyer said. “In other words, for the first time in more than 20 years, our books were in professionally acceptable condition, and that is an accomplishment that the finance department should take great pride in.”

Meyer said it sets a new threshold of expectation.

“Henceforth and hereafter, there should be no more audits with material weaknesses or significant deficiencies,” he said. “It is really a very positive accomplishment, and recognition of the improvement of the quality of the city’s financial record keeping, so kudos to all the folks involved in making that possible.”

Those on the Commission agreed.

“I just wanted to echo (the Mayor’s) comments earlier on the part of the finance team,” Commissioner Tim Downing said. “Just the fact that we had a clean audit — that’s just outstanding news.”

Also at Tuesday’s meeting:

Grant Agreements

Commissioners approved grant proposals for:

Kentucky Heritage Council, instructor fees — $21,000
Kentucky Heritage Council, NAPC CAMP Training — $6,000
Kentucky Heritage Council, Northern Kentucky Restoration Weekend Program — $9,000

Incentives and Subsidies

Commissioners approved these incentives and subsidies:

THIRTY9 Property, LLC, Façade Incentive — $6,000
Scout Yonder, LLC, Rent Subsidy — $6,000
Zels Pretzels, Rent Subsidy — $6,000
Safewave Technology Corporation, Rent Subsidy — $6,000
Beech Native, LLC, dba Live Forever Die Whenever, Rent Subsidy — $6,000
Fessler Properties, LLC – Historic Electric Sign Incentive — $7,500

Short-term rentals

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a proposed ordinance change for short-term rentals, revising density limits and expanding appeals rights related to the grant of a license.

The city eliminated the conditional use and went to a limited use including neighborhoods, making it a combination of historic districts and neighborhoods with density limits.

“Just a very quick note,” Commissioner Shannon Smith said after the vote. “There’s been a lot of discussions over an extended period of time on these short-term rentals, and I just wanted to thank everyone that’s commented, showed up, all of it — it’s very much appreciated, and it helps us form this ordinance in the best way that we can for the majority of the folks. So, just thank you to everyone.”

Resignations and New Hires

Commissioners approved resignations and new hires for:

Resignation – Trevor Collins, Police Officer, Police Department
Resignation – Corey Zelensky, Police Officer, Police Department
Resignation – Wendy Ryan, Section 8 Inspector, Neighborhood Services Department
New Hire – John Sadosky, Assistant Economic Development Director, Economic Development Department
New Hires – 2 Finance Technicians, Finance Department
New Hire – David Lillich, Police Officer, Police Department
New Hire – John Mairose, Police Officer, Police Department

Appointments and Reappointments

Commissioners approved appointments and reappointments for:

Reappointment – Steven Hill, Human Rights Commission
Reappointment – Michael Steinman, Human Rights Commission
Reappointment – Anthony Noll, Board of Examiners for Police & Firefighters
Appointment – Gabriella DeAngelis, Kenton County Planning Commission
Appointment – Alison Wendling, Urban Forestry Board

City Solicitor retiring

“Our city solicitor, David Davidson, is retiring effective June 29,” City Manager Ken Smith said during the meeting. “It’s well-deserved and I hope he enjoys a very long retirement, but that does present an obvious situation where we need to hire a new attorney.”

Smith said the job has been posted. “Certainly, I would encourage anyone who is interested in working with this great team at the city of Covington to go to our website and let us know.”

Police lauded

“I want to talk for just a second about some of the comments that have been made about our Police Department in regard to their availability,” Mayor Meyer said near the end of the meeting.

During public comments, several people got up to speak out about the police presence at recent protests.

“The Police Department have been very discreet, and it is their job to protect even those who are protesting from disruption,” he said. “Too often our police get condemned for being there — but if they’re not there, they’re going to be condemned for not being there. It’s absolutely a lose-lose situation for our police.”

The Mayor went on to further compliment the police.

“Our police have done an excellent job of exercising their discretion and their judgment — not interfering, not causing problems, not provoking issues,” he said. “It’s a very unrewarding situation for our law enforcement people that they’ve done a good job of protecting all of those of us who are here in our city, and that should be recognized.”

Executive Session

At the end of the meeting, Mayor Meyer asked that the Commission go into an executive session “pertaining to pending litigation.”

Afterward, he said the Commission would not reconvene, nor would they conduct any more action.

Next Meeting

The next regularly scheduled Covington Commission meeting will be a caucus meeting held at 6 p.m., May 21, at the City Building at 20 W. Pike St. in Covington. There will also be a special budget meeting at 9 a.m., Saturday, May 18, at the same location. The caucus can be followed live on Fioptics channel 815, Spectrum channel 203, the Telecommunications Board of Northern Kentucky (TBNK) website, the TBNK Facebook page @TBNKonline, and the TBNK Roku channels.

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