Audit finds questionable practices - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Audit finds questionable practices in former WV Department of Agriculture administration

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A legislative audit of the West Virginia Department of Agriculture brought "troubling activities and management" practices done by the previous administration to light, legislators said Thursday.

"To date, the audit has revealed very troubling activities and management practices by the Agriculture Department's previous administration, including questionable accounting methods, expense reimbursements and loans administered by the agency," said House Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison. "Upon being elected to the office of Agriculture Commissioner, Walt Helmick requested the legislative auditor perform an audit of the department."

Miley said the audit is a standard request and gives a newly elected office holder a perspective from which to begin operating and managing the agency.

Miley, along with Senate President Jeffery Kessler, D-Marshall, ordered the legislative auditor to turn the information over to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

"When these preliminary findings were brought to the attention of Senate President Kessler and myself, we ordered our Legislative Auditor to immediately turn the information over to the U.S. Attorney's office. Commissioner Helmick supported our decision 100 percent," Miley added.

He said the activities that lack integrity and violate the public's trust would not be tolerated.

"We will continue to provide law enforcement with any information necessary to assist in its investigation," Miley said. "Meanwhile, as we aware completion of the audit, President Kessler and I will be working with Commissioner Helmick to facilitate any legislative changes necessary to ensure greater accountability and to tighten statutory controls over the activities identified in the audit."

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Following the announcement that the West Virginia Legislative Auditor's office has been directed to turn over findings from an audit being conducted on the Department of Agriculture to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick issued the following statement.

"Upon being sworn into office as Agriculture Commissioner last January one of my first official acts was to request an audit of the agency," Commissioner Helmick said. "We have recently been made aware that some accounting and management practices from the previous administration have been called into question and that Senate President Jeff Kessler and House Speaker Tim Miley have requested that those findings be turned over to the U.S. Attorney."
Commissioner Helmick went on to say that "we support that decision 100 percent and the Agriculture Department will do whatever is needed to assist in this investigation."