The Missouri Auditor’s Office recently released the results of an audit conducted on Holt County, Missouri last summer.
The report rated the overall operation of the county as “fair,” which means:
“this entity needs to improve operations in several areas. The report contains several findings, or one or more findings that require management’s immediate attention, and/or the entity has indicated several recommendations will not be implemented. In addition, if applicable, several prior recommendations have not been implemented.”
The audit specifically focused the office of Sheriff Scott Wedlock, saying it “revealed serious shortcomings within the Sheriff’s department.” Specific areas mentioned were revenue from concealed and carry permit fees, the loss of pre-paid phone cards at a cost of $1,710, fuel purchases and usage and general oversight of the department’s accounting.
Revenue from Concealed and Carry Permit Fees
The audit of the Sheriff’s records showed 83 CCW permits were issued since the current sheriff took office, with another 34 renewals occurring during the same time period. The revenue from the permits should total $5,600, but state auditors were only able to find $4,575 recorded in the Sheriff’s fee agent account, a loss of $1,025. Following the audit, the report says Sheriff’s department personnel found $324 “which they believe represented CCW fees previously received and not deposited.”
As for the remainder of the money, Sheriff Scott Wedlock believes they weren’t lost. He thinks they were never collected.
“When I took office, I inherited a wad of cash that was the concealed carry money,” Wedlock said. ”The auditors that came through the time beforehand did not audit the concealed carry money, so there’s kind of a question as to where you start and where you stop. I think it’s pretty much a probability that there were people given CCWs that weren’t charged for them in the prior administration.”
Today, Wedlock says everyone pays a flat fee: $100 for a permit, $50 for a renewal.
The Sheriff’s department maintains two checking accounts. One a commissary account holding inmate commissary funds, phone card sales and phone commissions. The other is the Sheriff’s fee agent account. This is money collected from civil fees, bonds and concealed and carry (CCW) fees. The audit discovered bank reconciliations were not being performed for either account. In May of 2011, the cash balance for the fee account was short $1,572.
Wedlock said the money from the CCW classes is a part of this deficit.
The audit also discovered the Sheriff’s commissary account was being used to purchase items for the department, such as inmate clothing, a stove and a dishwasher. While these purchases were clearly for the department and not improper, the Sheriff has “no statutory authority…to hold county monies outside of the country treasury.”
In the report, Wedlock responded, “Given the recent letter from the Attorney General’s office regarding this matter and discussion with the State Auditor’s office, Sheriff’s Association and legal counsel, I am attempting to determine where these funds should be placed.”
Phone Card Sales
The Sheriff’s office purchases phone cards for the prisoners. The phone cards cost the department $6.50 each and are sold to the prisoners for $10. The audit discovered 171 phone cards were missing, a loss to the county of $1,710. Sheriff Wedlock says he believes they were stolen, but he doesn’t have any suspects.
In response to the audit, the phone cards are now being numbered when they are purchased and the department has implemented a system to track the sales.
Fuel Purchases and Usage
The Sheriff’s department purchases fuel for its vehicle with fuel cards provided by the county. The audit found that while usage/fuel logs were maintained by all but one of the Sheriff’s vehicles, some of the logs were not complete. The audit also focused on the fuel statement for February of 2011. Auditors found 40 percent of the fuel purchased was “not supported by receipts or included on the fuel logs.” The Sheriff’s approval, however, was indicated on the statement.
“I don’t think there’s any indication of abuse,” Wedlock said. ”I think it was a system that we were using not unlike other parts of the county government. It just wasn’t adequate they were wanting.”
Spence Jackson with the auditor’s office would not attribute the problems in the sheriff’s department to deliberate fraud, waste and abuse.
“I think it’s a lack of oversight and a lack of adequate supervisory review. Those are internal controls that they could improve upon, if they would make the effort,” Jaskson said.
It’s the last six words that are key to changes being made for the better. Several of the problems this audit found were also found during previous audits, yet nothing was done to correct them. According to Jackson, that’s something that happens all too often, and not just in Holt County.
“We’ll come into an area, conduct an audit, point out recommendations such as we have here. Sometimes the changes are implemented. Sometimes they’re not. It knows no size boundaries. We see it in places as large as St. Louis and Kansas City and small areas like Holt County.”
This contributes to a culture where fruad waste and abusive of public funds is possible.
“Anytime you have sloppy bookkeeping, that certainly does open the door to bad opportunities,” Jackson added.
Sheriff Wedlock says many changes are already in place because of the findings of the audit.
“You’re foolish if you don’t listen to the professional people. Take their advice, make changes and move on.”