A County's Contracts Go Missing

Jefferson County, Alabama, is likely the nation's most financially troubled large local government. Alabama's most populous county (home to Birmingham) could go bankrupt ...
by | July 16, 2009

Jeffco Jefferson County, Alabama, is likely the nation's most financially troubled large local government. Alabama's most populous county (home to Birmingham) could go bankrupt because it can't pay the debt from its sewer system. Jefferson County also could go bankrupt for a completely unrelated reason: A judge threw out a tax that provided more than a quarter of its general fund.

To get where it is today, Jefferson County has suffered from a lot of bad luck. But, you'd also struggle to find a worse-managed county.

Too harsh? Check out this story from the Birmingham News and decide for yourself:

Documentation is missing on 123 Jefferson County contracts totaling at least $45 million, with some lacking sufficient information to determine whether the contract is expired or active, according to county records.

Those include contracts between the county and dozens of businesses such as architectural firms, engineering firms, law firms, janitorial services, nursing services and the Birmingham Water Works Board.

In many of the cases, the county is missing the entire contract. In some, only a cover sheet exists. In others, the county has a copy of the contract, but the contract does not specify general conditions of the agreement.

For some local governments, $45 million may be a pittance. In Jefferson County, though, the annual budget is only a bit more than $200 million, so we're talking about real money.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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