Monday, January 12, 2009

State audit criticizes operation of Barton County Sheriff's Department

A state audit issued last week criticizes the operation of the Barton County Sheriff's Department under former Sheriff Shannon Higgins. The following comes from the cover page of the report:

Task force monies totaling $2,008 have not been accounted for. An additional $1,960 should be billed to the Barton County Sheriff for repayment of drug buy funds erroneously reimbursed. Reimbursement requests and activity reports prepared by the officers for drug buys and information purchases totaling $12,090 were not reviewed and approved by the Sheriff. Given the risk involved in dealing with cash and illegal drugs an adequate review process of drug and information purchases and reimbursements needs to be established.

Compensatory time earned by task force officers was not calculated in accordance with the county's personnel policy, and as a result, four officers were overpaid. Leave time (vacation, sick leave, and compensatory time taken) was used in the officers' calculations of compensatory time earned. Payroll reports prepared by a task force officer for grant reimbursements were not accurate and did not agree to timesheets prepared and submitted to the County Clerk.

The Sheriff does not have the statutory authority to hold the task force bank account outside the county treasury, and controls and procedures over task force funds need improvement. Adequate supporting documentation was not retained for operating expenses of the task force totaling $1,260. Informants did not sign 23 receipts for $3,965 that was provided to them to purchase drugs, as informant payments, or for phone cards and a prepaid cell phone to use in making drug buys. Some task force disbursements did not appear to be prudent and necessary uses of public funds.

Controls and procedures over evidence and seized property obtained by the task force need improvement. A complete log of evidence and seized property is not maintained, evidence records and other task force records were stolen or lost, and evidence records of drugs purchased and evidence seized were not always prepared.

The county had not updated the cost benefit analysis of the county quarry since our prior audit in 2003 or adequately tracked the cost of operating the quarry. The county's quarry is nearing exhaustion, does not appear to operating as originally estimated, and may result in a financial loss to the county. The County did not always solicit bids nor was bid documentation always retained for various purchases. Invoices relating to the cost of housing inmates were not submitted to the county for payment by the Sheriff in a timely manner.

Vehicle mileage and fuel usage logs of the Sheriff's office were not adequately reviewed by the Sheriff or the County Commission until August 2007, and it appears questionable whether some fuel purchases was used solely for county business. For example, an officer frequently fueled his county owned patrol car on Friday and again on Monday when his timesheets indicated he did not work the weekend. This same officer currently uses his county patrol vehicle to take his children to and pick them up from school on a daily basis. Given the high cost of fuel and additional liability incurred with children being in a county owned vehicle, the Sheriff and the County Commission should review the costs of using county owned vehicles only when needed and discontinue allowing children to be transported in county owned vehicles. The county has not established an official domicile for the Crime Victim Advocate, and mileage claimed by the advocate appeared excessive.

The County Collector's annual settlements were incorrect, and protested taxes were not distributed in a timely manner. The County Collector did not correctly calculate and distribute surtax, and Proposition C ratios were not used to calculate various withholdings and commissions.

The DARE bank account was held outside the county treasury, and controls and procedures over DARE funds need improvement. Bank reconciliations were not performed for the Sheriff's fee account in a timely manner, and the Sheriff issued checks when sufficient funds were not available.

Numerous problems were noted relating to the Prosecuting Attorney's accounting controls and procedures. Although many of these problems were noted in our previous two audits, little progress has been made in implementing the recommendations. Procedures for the timely processing and subsequent disposition of bad check complaints have not been established, and court ordered restitution was not always disbursed to the victim in a timely manner. Additionally, weaknesses included inadequate segregation of duties and controls over receipts, and the failure to make deposits timely. No attempt has been made by the Prosecuting Attorney to identify or properly dispose of the monies held in two old bank accounts.


Anonymous said...

OMG!!!!! I heard that Shannon was going to what happens now?

Anonymous said...

Hopefully he doesn't come back!!!

Anonymous said...

In checking some items you might look again but I believe this is from the Cedar county audit and not Barton county

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much of this is DIRECTLY attributable to Higgins?

Anonymous said...

Anything that has to do with the Sheriff's Department or the Task Force is DIRECTLY attributable to Higgins. He was the man in charge. Whether he did it or not he is (was) the one ultimately in charge of that office.