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Commissioners file another suit against controller

Published January 17. 2011 05:00PM

Another civil suit was started by the Schuylkill County Commissioners against Controller Melinda Kantner, involving the ongoing dispute the controller has with the public accountant hired by the board to perform a financial audit last year.

The suit asks the court to grant a judgment of mandamus ordering Kantner, in her capacity as county controller, to issue payment to L. Samuel Deegan, P.C., in the total amount of $24,000, representing the third and final installment of $18,000, and the final retaining payment of $6,000 due and owing him under terms of the contract with the county.

Deegan was the successful bidder on proposals solicited by the commissioners in October 2009 to perform an audit of the county's financial statements for fiscal years 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

In January 2010 the commissioners entered into an Engagement Letter with Deegan to perform the audit for the period from 2009 through 2012 and be paid $60,000 each year of the contract term in three $18,000 installments with a final payment of $6,000 due upon completion.

The suit states the controller paid for the 2009 audit, the first two installments of $18,000 on March 2 and May 4, 2010, respectively; and when the third invoice for $18,000 was submitted to the controller's office for payment last June 24, the suit claims it was removed from the county's accounting system by the controller's office on Oct. 26 for "reasons unknown to the commissioners."

The suit claims the commissioners had approved the third and final installment as well as the final payment of $6,000 to Deegan.

It is claimed in the suit on or about Nov. 17, the county administrator submitted two check requests to the controller, one for the $18,000 installment and the second check for $6,000, representing the final payment due under the Engagement Letter for the 2009 audit.

In processing the two check requests, the suit claims the controller processed and approved the $6,000 check request, which, under the terms of the Engagement Letter, was to constitute the final payment due Deegan upon completion of the audit.

However, the suit claims the controller failed and refused to process and pay the final installment of $18,000 in full, reasoning as follows: "$4,800 to be deducted due to additional cost incurred in preparing the report for the Department of Community Economic Development report compilation."

As a result, the controller processed a check for $19,200 for payment to Deegan and not the full amount of $24,000.

The suit claims the controller's continuing failure and refusal to pay the third and final installment because of an alleged "additional cost incurred for the DCED report," is an impermissible refusal and is a clear violation of the law.

The suit claims the controller is without authority or discretion to independently deduct funds from a duly approved payment to a county contractor or vendor.

It further claims the controller arbitrarily deducted $4,800 from the third and final installment of $18,000 merely because the commissioners refused to reimburse the controller $4,800 for her independent engagement of an auditing firm, Maillie Falconiero, of Pottstown, for a fee of $4,800 purportedly to assist her in compilation of reports pursuant to her statutorily imposed duties under the county code.

The suit claims the controller did not obtain the commissioners' approval prior to engaging Maillie Falconiero and that she never notified the commissioners of her intent to engage the firm.

The suit states the commissioners are the sole contracting authority for the county and that the controller is without legal authority to independently enter into contracts on behalf of the county.

The controller had asked the county to reimburse her $4,800 for her hiring the firm and the commissioners refused.

The suit claims the contract between the controller and Maillie Falconiero is unenforceable against the county and the commissioners have no other remedy of law and are asking the court to order the controller to make the payments to Deegan.

The first mandamus against the controller was settled out of court. It dealt with a charge the controller was not cooperating with the auditor in compiling the single audit report which is filed annually in the county courts and with the Department of Community Economic Development.

Both reports were finally filed after a delay.

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