Additional Information on Giving Tree
At its meeting earlier this week, the Board directed the County Manager to provide the Board with additional information regarding the Giving Tree, as follows:
Any and all internal memos produced by Internal audit and senior management involving Giving Tree matters from the past 12 months, insuring statutory confidentiality as to personnel matters
A detailed list of gifts purchased for others with Giving Tree funds from February 2008 to December 2008, as well as an opinion whether these purchases were received by those for whom they were intended
A presentation from Finance Director Dena Diorio on the County’s expense advance policy and whether it complied with the time requirements of IR S circular/publication 15
A list of all remaining items left in inventory in the County’s possession related to the Giving Tree and their purchase prices
As indicated in the Board direction, these matters will be scheduled for an upcoming open session of the Board. Meanwhile, some of this information is available to the Board and public already. For example, all non-personnel-related memos regarding the Giving Tree are posted online at MecklenburgCountyNC.gov. Additionally, with regard to the fourth bullet above, the inventory of purchases that remained in the County’s possession until December 15 (when they were provided to the Salvation Army) is online at MecklenburgCountyNC.gov. We are confident the Salvation Army will distribute these items to children as gifts for the upcoming holiday.
Board members also are aware that the Internal Audit Department report determined that we lack a detailed list of gifts purchased with Giving Tree funds during the cited timeframe. Therefore, we are unable to provide such a list or full assurance that these gifts were received by those for whom they were intended. This is part of the reason why we asked law enforcement to investigate this matter. As an alternative, staff is compiling available documentation on items distributed during 2008.
Regarding the third bullet above, on December 3 in response to an email inquiry regarding the expense advance policy, Finance Director Dena Diorio provided the Board the following:
The County has a qualified plan related to business advances and reimbursements. This means that neither advances nor reimbursements are taxable to the employee. Three criteria are required for a qualified plan: there must be a business connection to the expense; there must be adequate accounting of the expense via receipts; and the accounting of the expense must be in a reasonable time. According to the IRS, reasonable is not specifically defined, only that it may vary depending upon the purpose and circumstances. Also, excess advance payments must be reimbursed to the employer. Only if the advance is not repaid, can it be considered a taxable item to the employee on a W-2.
At any time, including December 31, there could be advances out to employees. We would not immediately consider any of them for W-2 reporting. On December 31, 2008, there was no indication of a problem with the Giving Tree. Therefore, we believe the County handled the W-2 reporting correctly.
The employee turned in receipts for funds advanced in most cases and within reasonable time frames.
If the advances that were not accounted for had not been returned, then for December 31, 2009, the unreimbursed advance could have been considered for W-2 reporting. Since the outstanding money was returned, there is no adjustment to 2009 wages to be considered.
With regard to the adequate accounting of expenses, the police investigation has not concluded the funds were not used for the purposes intended. If it is the County’s conclusion that the receipts received to support the advances spent are not legitimate, then the advances could be added to the December 31, 2009 W-2 wages.
Again, consistent with Board direction, these matters will be placed on an upcoming Board meeting agenda.
State Proposes Changes to Mental Health Service Requirements
The North Carolina General Assembly mandated eliminating mental health and substance abuse community support services no later than June 30, 2010. Instead, a new case management service is being developed to take its place.
The N.C. Division of Mental Health has proposed that providers offering this new case management service must meet specific requirements to become certified as a Critical Access Behavioral Health Agency (CABHA). Those requirements include employing a half-time or full-time medical director, a clinical director, and a quality improvement/training director.
This new category of provider agency was developed by the Division to move the service system toward a more clinically directed and competent continuum of services. As a result, the shift is expected to significantly improve the quality of mental health and substance abuse services in our community.
Some providers have expressed opposition to these changes and are organizing efforts to contact the Governor, the Legislative Oversight Committee and the Board of County Commissioners. For more information, please contact Area Mental Health Director Grayce Crockett at 704-336-8638 or email
Mecklenburg County government offices and agencies will be closed on December 24 & 25 and January 1 for the holidays.
DSS Holiday Weekend Closures:
DSS weekend services also will be closed on Saturday, December 26 and Saturday, January 2.
- Harry L. Jones, Sr., County Manager