County Engineer Rudy Warnock's contracts were structured to protect himself instead of taxpayers, according to a performance review by the State Auditor that calls for improved oversight and management from the Board of Supervisors.

The 74-page report was released last Thursday and goes over several aspects of Warnock's contracts with the county, pointing out trouble areas it says opens the county up to fraud, waste and abuse.

Meanwhile, a second report focusing on the financial aspects of the contracts has yet to be released and could shed light on controversial subcontracts between Warnock and other firms.

The audit was not a criminal probe, but instead makes recommendations to the county on how to better manage contracts in order to become more fiscally responsible.

Warnock and some supervisors stressed that they have done nothing wrong and insist the audit was politically motivated.

Steve Seale, a spokesmen and lobbyist for the Board of Supervisors, held a press conference after the report was released, saying this shows no taxpayer dollars have been misspent or improperly paid by the board to Warnock.

"I think it's entirely political," Seale said of the audit. "Until someone comes forward and proves that there is misuse or improper use of funds, or there is intent to defraud the citizens of Madison County these are just baseless political accusations by whoever makes them."

District 2 Supervisor Tim Johnson concurred, but admitted the report did point out items that needed to be fixed.

"The main thing to understand is there isn't anything criminal, there isn't anything civil," Johnson said. "Can we tighten up some things? Yes. And are we? Yes."

Critics of the board and Warnock like Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins-Butler and District 3 Supervisor D.I. Smith called it a scathing report that showed fiscal mismanagement by the county.

"There needs to be a full-blown investigative audit," Hawkins-Butler said. "This shows the Madison County taxpayers have been fleeced."

The performance audit was the result of nearly six months of analysis and interviews by the State Auditor's Office which ultimately reviewed 116 projects and 22 contracts between the county and Warnock.

Along with numerous typographical errors in contracts, the report pointed out several issues, including what it called practices that were overly protective of Warnock instead of the county and its taxpayers.

"Most of the contracts that were reviewed are more protective of the engineer than than they are of the County," the audit report said.

One example it gave was language in the contracts that limited the engineer's liability in the event of defective plans or negligence.

"While this may be standard, OSA (Office of the State Auditor) cautions the board that when multiple contracts for multiple services on the same project are awarded to the same engineer, the board should consider evaluating the total risk that may occur and design the contract to protect the taxpayer," the audit reads.

"OSA recommends that Madison County immediately review its contracts with Warnock and take action to correct identified problems such as missing or incomplete information, blanks where information such as costs or dates should be, etc., in order to strengthen the contracts and increase the protection to the County."

The report points out that while an internal county audit in 2009 showed Warnock received 14 percent of the projects' cost, additional fees and reimbursements increase his total compensation beyond that mark.

It also points out that such reimbursements open the county up to the possibility of duplicate or excessive payments.

Examples include charges in 2005 and 2006 during Phase I of the Calhoun Station Parkway project of $0.35 a mile for vehicle mileage then an additional $100 a day "vehicle use charge."

There were also charges for computer use and photocopying which the performance audit said are normally considered overhead expenses and not reimbursed individually.

These types of charges are no longer as prevalent in Warnock's more recent contracts with the county, but he still handles the large majority of the county's engineering.

The performance audit recommends in the future that supervisors do more to negotiate the lowest price for the best service.

"OSA recommends that the county should at least consider using the bidding process in the future where competition exists, even for personal service engineering contracts," the report said.

"Even though current law does not require it nothing prevents a board from using bidding for engineering personal services to get the best product for the best price."

Toward the end, the report notes that a financial analysis of their findings has yet to be released and could address other issues not covered.

"The next report will focus primarily on the financial review of payments from the County to Rudy Warnock and from Rudy Warnock to his subcontractors and consultants for selected contracts," it reads.

Warnock's use of subcontracts have at times been the center of the controversy with Hawkins-Butler long calling on him to produce invoices.

"If Mr. Warnock would produce the subcontracted invoices a lot of this could be put to rest," Hawkins-Butler said last year. "It would be so easy and would not cost a dime to produce those contracted invoices."

In question she insists is $326,000 Warnock's firm charged the county in environmental engineering fees for Calhoun Station Parkway before subcontracting the work to another firm.

The terms of those subcontracts are not public record, but critics have insisted that Warnock charged the county for the work then farmed it out at a much lower price and pocketing the difference.

Warnock has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.