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Firm withdraws as county auditor
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Effingham County commissioners will start the process to choose a new auditor at their meeting Tuesday.

Commissioners are expected to have on their agenda picking a new accounting firm to conduct the annual audit after Donald Caines, principal at Caines and Hodges, sent a letter to the commissioners last Friday informing them of his firm’s decision to withdraw as auditor.

“After careful review of the situation, we have reluctantly concluded … we must cease our services as your independent certified public accountants for the audit of the financial statements for the year ended June 30, 2013,” Caines wrote in his letter.

Caines added the firm reached the decision following “substantial deliberation” and consultation with its own professional liability attorney and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Ethics Division.

“We believe that our independence has been impaired, in appearance and possibly in fact, by certain statements made to the media by county commissioners in recent weeks,” the letter continued.

Caines said the firm believes those statements may have undermined the audit process and in obtaining sufficient evidence through questions and documents from county management and staff.

The firm also will cooperate with the new firm chosen but cannot disclose information to any new accountants without written permission from the commissioners.

Commissioners voted 3-2 at their Sept. 10 meeting to keep Caines and Hodges as the county’s auditor. Chairman Wendall Kessler, who votes only in instances of a tie, urged commissioners to reconsider keeping Caines and Hodges as the auditor after the fiscal year 2013 audit was not presented to commissioners until June, six months after its original deadline. Kessler also called into question keeping the firm after parts of the audit had been released before it was presented to the entire board.

Caines, Hodges and Company won the bid last year to perform the county’s audits, quoting a price of $48,000