Friday, April 15, 2005

Just one decade after a deputy stole at least $10,000 from the Barton County Sheriff's Department, conditions are ripe for another employee to do the same, according to a state audit of the county released today.
"Controls and procedures need improvement in the sheriff's office," the audit said. The audit was for the years 2002 and 2003, when longtime Sheriff Bill Griffitt was still in charge. Griffitt has since retired and Shannon Higgins was elected to the position in November.
The audit reviewed a long list of problems in the department. "Receipts are not always deposited timely, checks and money orders received are not restrictively endorsed and safeguarded until deposited. Receipt slips are not always properly accounted for, the method of payment is not always indicated on receipt slips and original copies of voided receipt slips are not always maintained.
"Controls and procedures over inmate monies regarding the segregation of duties, following up on old outstanding checks, and preparing listings of open items (liabilities) have not been established.
"In addition, seized property items are not always tagged to identify the property to a specific case, the sheriff's office does not calculate the average costs of meals served to prisoners, and vehicle logs are not maintained for sheriff's office vehicles."
A sizable amount of money goes through the Sheriff's Department, the audit indicated, including monies for civil and criminal process fees, gun permits, bonds, and other miscellaneous receipts totaling $133,371 in 2003 and $130,335 in 2002. An additional $33,000+ in inmate receipts passed through the office during the two-year period. And some of the money was handled in a careless fashion, the audit said.
"Checks and money orders received are not restrictively endorsed immediately upon receipt and are kept in an unlocked desk drawer until deposited."
The thievery that took place when Deputy Susan Beatty worked at the office happened as a result of having only one officer handling the financial duties. The same thing was happening during the time period covered by the audit.
"The duties of receiving, recording, depositing and disbursing inmate monies, and reconciling an inmate bank account are not adequately segregated," the audit said. "One clerk primarily performs all of these duties."
The audit said there was no indication that anyone supervised the employee or conducted any reviews to make sure money was being handled properly. "To safeguard against possible loss or misuse of funds, internal controls should provide reasonable assurance that all transactions are accounted for properly and assets are adequately safeguarded."
Another area in which the sheriff's department fell short, according to the audit, was in keeping track of deputies' mileage. "Vehicle logs are not maintained for the 10 sheriff's vehicles," the report said. More than $29,000 was spent for gas for the cars during the two-year period.
The good news for Barton County residents is that apparently procedures are changing under Sheriff Higgins. His response to the audit indicated deposits are now being made daily and the department "is in the process of getting a locked drawer for receipts."
Vehicle logs are now in use, Higgins said, and "we are looking for someone to perform supervisory reviews."

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