City auditor lacks license as valid CPA Everson-Jones not certified since Dec. 1988

Joan Pratt appointee

Official acknowledges making 'big mistake,' will apply for permit

July 10, 1996|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

Beverly Everson-Jones, Baltimore Comptroller Joan M. Pratt's recent appointee as city auditor, hasn't held a license as a certified public accountant for 7 1/2 years, which means she cannot officially validate the audits her office conducts of municipal agencies.

Everson-Jones, who began work in the $83,300-a-year post in late April, first was licensed as a CPA by Maryland in 1984 and renewed her license two years later, state records show. But she did not renew her license after it expired a second time, on Dec. 31, 1988.

To maintain a license as a CPA, an accountant must take 80 hours of continuing professional education in seminars or graduate courses every two years and pay a biannual fee of $80. To first receive the coveted designation, applicants must meet stringent academic requirements and pass a rigorous, two-day test.

The state has 13,787 accountants with active CPA licenses, officials said.

Everson-Jones, 36, who spent seven years as executive director of the National Association of Black Accountants before being tapped by Pratt to be the city auditor, acknowledged yesterday that she made "a big mistake" in not reactivating her license before she took the job.

But she said that she made clear when she applied for the job in December that she did not have a license, saying she did not need it in her previous job. And she said she would complete the necessary continuing education requirements this week by attending seminars at the convention of her former organization being held here and would apply for a new license immediately.

"I understand the concern. It would have been wise to have done that," she said of getting her license renewed before she began work. "But there was no intent to mislead anybody."

Pratt, who made a point of being a licensed CPA in her successful inaugural run for public office last year, said last night that she was not aware until recently that her auditor did not hold a license. Pratt said Everson-Jones was certified as qualified by the city's personnel department and that she was the unanimous choice of a five-member selection panel.

"I am pleased that at the end of this week she will have the necessary credits for her license," Pratt said.

Everson-Jones' lack of a license came to light in anonymous faxes sent to The Sun and other news organizations this week. They followed what Everson-Jones said was a meeting with her top managers in which she told them that she couldn't sign any audits because she was not a licensed CPA.

It is the second time in four months that the credentials of a Pratt appointee have been questioned. In mid-April, Julius Henson resigned as the city's real estate officer after three weeks of controversy over his close relationship with Pratt and his qualifications to oversee the city's $3.2 billion real estate portfolio.

Last month, Pratt appointed Anthony J. Ambridge, a former 2nd District councilman, to fill the position left vacant by Henson's resignation.

The revised Baltimore City Charter, approved by voters in November 1994, is explicit about the credentials of the auditor. "The city auditor shall be a certified public accountant who is licensed by the state of Maryland," it reads.

But the provisions of the revised charter did not take effect until July 1 -- two months after Everson-Jones began her job.

The old charter said simply that the city auditor should be "a certified public accountant."

Michael A. Millemann, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law who served as the reporter of the commission that revised the charter, said the change was made to make the city auditor's job consistent with its counterpart at the state level. "There's a legislative auditor whose qualifications include that one must be a licensed CPA," Millemann said.

The Civil Service Commission requirements for the job said a CPA "certificate" is needed for the job. A certificate indicates only that someone has passed the CPA exam.

In announcing Everson-Jones' appointment in March, Pratt's office identified her in a news release as "Beverly Everson-Jones, CPA."

Accounting professionals were ambivalent over whether that characterization was misleading.

"It's a gray area," said Donald E. Howard, a Montgomery County CPA and current member and immediate past chair of the state Board of Public Accountancy. "My gut feeling is I would interpret that to mean licensed."

Everson-Jones said she was taking more courses than she actually needed to get her license renewed to boost the credentials of her office. And she said her lack of a license her first 10 weeks in office "does not preclude me from doing a good job at what I'm doing."

Pub Date: 7/10/96

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