Pike County's treasurer failed to deposit $1 million in checks for months

The Pike County courthouse in downtown Pikeville.
The Pike County courthouse in downtown Pikeville.

About a month after a state audit recommended increased supervision over the Pike County treasurer, a report from the Appalachian News-Express revealed the treasurer has failed to deposit about $1 million in checks paid to the county over the last 6 months.

The news disturbed some citizens, who worry that the treasurer, Johnda Billiter, cannot be trusted to manage the county’s finances.

Billiter and other county officials said the problems stem from personal issues in Billiter’s life, which have distracted her from her duties.

The un-deposited checks include about $314,000 from the Pike County Clerk’s Office, $643,000 from the Pike County Sheriff’s Office, and $20,000 from the county’s detention center, according to the News-Express.

“I have just had a lot of personal issues and also a little bit of medical issues,” Billiter told the Herald-Leader. “Hopefully by this weekend everything caught up in the bank.”

Billiter, who has served as Pike County’s treasurer since 1986, said she plans to retire in December.

“The treasurer, after 32 years, decided she isn’t going to make any more deposits,” said Pike County resident Charles “Monk” Sanders. “All of this is not adding up.”

The news comes about a month after a state audit revealed that Billiter had failed to pay the county’s bills within the 30 days required by statute.

In addition, the audit showed that Billiter released an inaccurate financial report to the Department of Local Government. The report understated the county’s expenditures by $5.8 million.

Billiter also did not complete bank reconciliations for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2016, until October 2017.

In each case, the state auditor’s office recommended that the Pike County Fiscal Court apply more intensive supervision over Billiter to ensure that these problems are fixed.

That audit was released March 29.

“I’ve had personal problems in my life, but I’ll tell you what, I had to go on and do my job accordingly, or else I wouldn’t have a job,” Pike County resident James Michael May said to the court on Tuesday.

May went on to tell a story about how he fired a childhood friend of his who worked for him, because the friend was not performing well as an employee.

“When someone is not doing the job that they should be doing, I think that it’s time to take that into consideration,” May said.

Billiter told the Herald-Leader she hoped to have all the checks deposited within a week, and that she apologized to the county’s magistrates for the delay.

County Deputy Judge-Executive Herbie Deskins said that while Billiter failed to deposit checks in a timely manner, no money is missing.

“She’s taking remedial action as we speak,” Deskins said on Thursday. “She’s never had a negative report until this year.”

Deskins criticized the state audit, saying the audit, while technically accurate, is misleading.

The county always pays its bills, Deskins said, but it sometimes waits more than 30 days because of meeting schedules and other delays.

“The billing cycle that the audit inspects does not coincide with how we do business,” Deskins said. “We do not pay bills as they come in.”

Dilliter said even without the $1 million of undeposited checks, the county is in stable financial shape.

Budget constraints in recent years led the county to tighten its financial belt, laying off some employees and instituting a 1 percent occupational tax, Billiter said.

Pike County magistrate Hillman Dotson said the magistrates, who are responsible for supervising the treasurer, have spoken with Billiter and “will get to the bottom of it.”

Will Wright is a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project. Reach him at 859-270-9760, @​HLWright