BRIDGEPORT — Bridgeport’s city administrator wrote off more than $121,000 in ambulance bills before retiring in 2011, apparently because the paperwork was too complex, the mayor says.
With about $30,000 in ambulance service revenues each year, the write-offs make up the vast majority of ambulance billings between 2005 and 2010, according to a report from the Washington State Auditor.
Due to a lack of documentation, the state auditor could not determine if the write-offs — made by city administrator Jean Hardie before she retired in December 2011 — were appropriate. Hardie was with the city for more than 30 years, Mayor Marilyn Lynn said.
Lynn, was not mayor when the billings or write-offs occurred, said the city has since hired an ambulance billing service to make sure all ambulance calls are billed accurately and in a timely fashion. Longtime Mayor Steve Jenkins was elected to the Douglas County Commission in November 2010. He couldn’t be reached to comment.
Documentation isn’t available to show exactly what happened, so there’s no way for the city to show why those bills were not collected, Lynn said.
She said her impression after going over the problem with the auditor’s office is that the method of billing was the issue.
“I think there was a failure in the system for a lot of the bills to be appropriately billed out,” she said. She added that Medicare had changed some of its codes, and the administrator couldn’t keep up with the changes.
“As ambulance billing has become more and more complicated, and we just had a single person who had a myriad of other jobs to do as well, I think it just came down to the job itself had grown larger and more complicated than what our very, very small city staff could stay on top of,” she said.
Lynn added that, despite the loss in funds, the city was able to provide an ambulance service. She said a $3 monthly tax on utility bills which are used for ambulance maintenance and replacement, may be unnecessary after the city is able to collect more funds through billing.
Another finding in the audit determined that the city administrator adjusted utility revenues by $13,280 in 2010, and by $25,650 in 2011 out of annual revenues of about $750,000.
Lynn said adjustments are made for things like utilities billed for a full month when it was occupied for only half of the month.
She said the auditor found that the city’s amounts in adjustments were comparable to other cities of its size.
However, there was not adequate documentation to determine if the adjustments were appropriate.
Lynn added that the City Council is now reviewing all utility and ambulance billings monthly to monitor any adjustments or write-offs.
K.C. Mehaffey: 997-2512