Thursday, February 2, 2023

Town attorney, auditor agree: Double Oak’s use of federal funds complied with rules

Double Oak’s town attorney and auditor now agree that the town’s use of federal COVID-19 relief funds was in compliance with U.S. Treasury guidelines.

The town’s use of State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) came under scrutiny this spring and summer after then-Mayor Von Beougher used a large portion of the town’s SLFRF funds to give $25,000 bonuses to nine town employees. Most towns of similar size gave bonuses no more than $5,000 with SLFRF. Beougher resigned in July as criticisms mounted.

The Town Council then requested an audit of the use of the funding, to find out if the $25,000 bonuses were allowed. The auditors determined that three of the nine employees were not eligible, per SLFRF rules and guidelines, and presented the findings to the Town Council. A majority of council members then voted to write a letter to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, seeking forgiveness. The council also appointed former Mayor Mike Donnelly to finish out Beougher’s term, and Donnelly wrote the letter “to justify that the premium pay was responsive to the employees’ performance of essential work during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Since then, with more clarity from the Treasury, the town attorney and auditor now agree that the town was and is in compliance with SLFRF rules.

During the Town Council meeting on Monday night, the town auditor, Carl Deaton, went through a presentation to clarify the issue. Deaton said that the three employees in question, while not eligible under the same provisions as the other six employees, could be eligible under another provision if the town provided written justification to the Treasury, which it did in Donnelly’s letter last month. Deaton said that after speaking with the Treasury and the Texas Municipal League, “there is no approval process or approval feature on this written justification. It’s simply a requirement that you have to do it in order to make the employees eligible.”

Donnelly wants Double Oak residents to feel confident that the town didn’t misuse funding or need forgiveness from the Treasury.

“Upon further clarification from Treasury and review of correspondence with the Treasury and other sources we can say the Town appears to have always been in compliance with U.S. Treasury SLFRF Guidelines & Rules and continues to be in compliance,” Donnelly said in an email Tuesday. “The Town remains in compliance when it submits its next annual report in April 2023 with the required written justification letter.”
Mark Smith
Mark Smith
Mark Smith is the Digital Editor of The Cross Timbers Gazette.

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