SWANSEA, S.C. — Where are the assets? Where is the money? Is it missing? Is this an issue of poor accounting, or is something else happening in the Lexington County town?
These are the questions being asked after a recent audit of Swansea's finances for the year ended June 30, 2021 found more than $3,000,000 quote 'understated.' That report has led to frustration, confusion and a lawsuit.
Filed electronically Thursday on behalf of two Swansea town council members and a resident, the documents outline why council members Doris Simmons, Michael Luongo and former council member Barrett Black are suing the town and several members of its leadership, including a hired auditor.
Councilmember Michael Luongo has served the town the past three years.
"Personally, I'd just love to see that there's simple answers, that it could've been a clerical error or something like that. And those things need to be accounted for and need to be held responsible for as well," Michael Luongo, Swansea council member said.
"We hope that it shows everything is okay and it's just bad book keeping, but the truth of the matter is, we do not know," Jake Moore, lawyer representing council said.
The council member's lawyer, Jake Moore tells News 19 his clients felt the lawsuit was their only option to get answers.
"He said, the only way I will answer your questions is if you put them in writing ahead of time and I will answer them, I believe, in writing. So my folks are basically saying, wait a minute, we paid the auditor significant sums of money to give us an answer to our financial condition and we're being told that we cannot talk to him person to person," Moore said.
The audit in question outlines what are described as understated balances, related to fixed assets for all funds.
Joseph Dickey, the lawyer representing the town sent us a statement saying he only recently became aware of the lawsuit, and that the town does not comment on any active litigation.
"I only recently became aware of the lawsuit this morning when it was provided to the Town. As it is not the Town of Swansea's practice to comment on any active litigation, I do not have any additional comments or statements to provide regarding the matter," Dickey said.
The lawsuit directly asks for these things on the fifth page:
- A hearing to secure factual information person to person for the "missing $3,000,000"
- To comply with generally accepted accounting practices
- For the auditor to appear in council to answer questions
News 19 reached out to the town's mayor, the town treasurer and the auditor, John Brown, for statements or interviews and we did not receive any correspondence back.
Barrett Black is a former councilman for Swansea and current resident. He's the third of the trio suing the town.
"I want to see better things for the town and the last thing I want to do is give the town a black eye, but if this is the route that we have to take to get answers and to get the town put on the right path, then that's what we have to do," Barrett Black, former Swansea council member said.
Swansea town councilman Michael Luongo tells News 19 council has a meeting scheduled with auditor John brown set for Monday, August 22, 2022 at 6 p.m.