Audit of City of Charleston mayor is over; council discussing what’s next

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- The audit of City of Charleston’s Mayor John Tecklenburg is over.

It was unanimously requested by city council in May, after the mayor was accused of misusing city funds.

At a City of Charleston council meeting on Tuesday night, council voted to accept the findings in the final audit report and therefore ending the three-month long investigation into Mayor Tecklenburg’s spending practices.

“It’s time for this process to end. For us to move on to much more important things in the city, such as flooding, transportation, and housing,” Mike Seekings, Chair of City of Charleston Audit Committee

The internal auditor investigated the mayor’s purchases from 2016, when he took office, to present date. The audit report found, among other things, questionable purchases for non-city travel and business card’s purchases for people who do not work for the city, including his wife sandy.

It was also revealed that more than $80,000 dollars was spent on a legal advisor/consultant hired for the mayor. This this expense has upset several council members who previously requested more information from the legal department about the scope of the legal advisor’s contract, scope of work, and purpose for hiring him.

“The question was asked about the back-up information. What was that money being paid for? Who was directing it? The request was for any agreement between the consultant, any back up information about the billing process, and any reports that might have come as a result of the spending, which is a significant amount of money that being $83,000 dollars”, Seekings said.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, the City of Charleston’s legal department was not able to provide the requested information to city council about the legal advisor/consultant. However, council decided to still move forward with accepting the final audit report.

“It has been a process where we learned a good bit, one of the things that we learned is it’s time for this process to end,” Seekings said.

The chair of the Charleston Audit Committee, Mike Seekings, says now that the audit is over, several next steps could follow. If council members feel it necessary, they can file individual ethics complaints against the mayor with the state. He also says that the city looking to make several policy changes.

“This process, although arduous, has pointed out some things that we should look at and shore up in our procedures and procedures manual and in the way,  we do business in the City of Charleston,” Seekings said.

The Audit Committee brought in an Independent Audit Attorney, Michael Burchstead, Former General Counsel for S.C. Ethics Commission, to oversee any legal implications of the Mayor’s spending.

He says, “I found no self-dealing by the mayor or any actions or conduct showing the Mayor or Mrs. Tecklenburg have personally financially benefited from their actions. No action of Mayor Tecklenburg or his family appears to be borne out of desire to use the office of the mayor for financial gain, but rather they appear to be motivated by their interest in representing the citizens of the city.”

Mayor Tecklenburg’s office previously spoke out about the audit saying, “Policy disagreements are not ethical issues. Under Charleston’s strong mayor” form of government, the mayor has broad latitude to make management decisions regarding city policies and procedures, including those related to personnel, contracting, and what information is printed on his business cards. Disagreements resulting from those decisions are not ethical issues.”

City officials say that the next steps following this audit will be further discussed at an Audit Committee Meeting in September.

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