• Sun. May 26th, 2024

Lacking finance director, West Fargo enters into another contract with financial consultant – InForum

WEST FARGO — The city of West Fargo will sign another contract with Ae2S Nexus, a finance service consulting and staffing company.

City Administrator Dustin Scott proposed entering into a third contract with the company, this time for 2025 budget preparation and 2023 audit support, during the Monday, April 15, City Commission meeting. Like last year, when the company was first hired, Scott said, the city is in the middle of a search for a new finance director.

“With the wonderful job our staff is doing on the day-to-day, there is still some support needed on the budget and audit,” he said.

In April 2023,

the city agreed to a 12-week, $144,000 contract

with the firm to help provide staffing amid an employee shortage and the departure of then-finance director Judith Afdahl, who resigned after less than a year on the job.

At that time, the department was short-staffed because three finance department staffers were fired in late January and early February following the discovery of widespread billing mistakes for city-provided utilities such as water and sewer service. The mistakes resulted in a loss of at

least $1.25 million in taxpayer money,

according to a Forum analysis of public records.

In late June 2023, the city signed a 12-week contract extension with Ae2S Nexus, allowing the company to assist in preparing audit information and utility billing and accounting services. At that time, Scott said the extended contract would be hourly and a total cost estimate was not provided.

City Communications Manager Rachel Richter Lordemann said West Fargo paid Ae2S Nexus $330,485.55 between February and November 2023. There have been no payments to Ae2S Nexus since November, she said.

In a memo to the City Commission, Ae2S Nexus said the new contract will provide three major services: assisting with the upcoming 2023 audit, the 2025 budgeting process and providing on-call services, which it defined as “additional services as it relates to helping the city administrator and finance department evaluate data requests, options for process improvement, or similar items.”

The previous contracts with Ae2S Nexus included management of the finance department, utility billing, accounts payable/accounts receivable, accounting, budget preparation assistance and audit assistance, Richter Lordemann said.

Scott said Monday that the new contract cost will be billed by the hour, but the total cost will not exceed $45,000 without additional approval from the City Commission. The commission unanimously approved the contract Monday.

The city

recently completed its 2022 audit, which was approved by the City Commission at a special meeting in March.

The audit found the city of West Fargo to be in relatively good financial standing.

Heide Delorme was hired as finance director in May 2023 following Afdahl’s resignation. Less than a year later,

Delorme announced she would leave the position, and her last day was Feb. 22.

Since Delorme’s resignation, the city has been searching for a finance director. The finance director is responsible for the management of accounting, debt/treasury, utility billing, budgeting, accounts payable/receivable, payroll and investments for the city. Delorme was earning a salary of $123,677.

Scott said Monday the city has received “several applications” for the position, and three candidates have been identified as finalists. The candidates will be interviewed virtually on Friday, April 19. The Forum asked for the names of the finalists on Monday but has yet to receive that information.

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