TERRE HAUTE —
Former Vigo County Treasurer David Crockett could be required to personally pay back more than $26,000 to reconcile a bookkeeping discrepancy discovered in 2012 during an audit from the Indiana State Board of Accounts.
In a committee meeting of the Vigo County Council on Wednesday, Crockett said the issue was first brought to his attention in 2012, during an exit meeting with the state agency for the 2011 budget year. His office in July 2012 began researching a balance shortfall, he said.
The State Board of Accounts, from January through the end of December of 2012, reports a shortfall of $26,105.81 for cash on hand in the county’s cash book versus bank deposit balances.
In its audit exit interview, the State Board of Accounts suggested options to correct the problem.
One option is for Crockett or the county to pay for an outside audit of county records and if any discrepancies are discovered, then the county or Crockett would be responsible for that amount.
County Attorney Michael Wright said another option is that the issue also could be rectified through a resolution, approved by the Vigo County Board of Commissioners and adopted by the Vigo County Council, that would simply reconcile the county’s cash book with a record of bank statements.
That measure would not involve a cash payment. Wright said the state agency, in its review, did not find evidence of a criminal act, but found inept bookkeeping and a lack of internal auditing controls.
“The real issue, it appears, is the county had an inept employee preparing the county treasurer’s monthly report that is turned over to the State Board of Accounts every month by statute,” Wright said.
To show the issue had been a problem before Crockett became treasurer, Wright gave the committee reports from December 2005 to December 2006 that show “to-be-corrected” entries in the cash book noting a balance that needed to be corrected to meet bank statements.
Wright referred to an April 2012 cash book entry for $2,802 for First Financial Bank and a notation for about $600 for Old National. “The problem was there was no explanation to what needed to be corrected to make that number make sense. What was happening it was being ‘force balanced’,” Wright said.
“There were discrepancies, and to make up for the discrepancies, a number was plugged in to make this form appear as though our cash book and our bank statements were matching,” Wright said.
Crockett said he removed the employee responsible for bank reconciliations from that job in mid-2012. In November 2012, Crockett was elected county clerk and started in that position in January 2013. The new county treasurer, Jim Bramble, terminated the employee. In a July 16, 2013 letter to the state, Bramble said “employees with experience and training in the field of accounting are now performing the monthly bank reconciliations.”
Bramble told the committee of this action and stated he also regularly reviews the monthly reconciliations.
“You have to trust employees that do a job, and unless something is called to your attention, you have no reason to believe numbers are not correct” on the cash book, Crockett said after the meeting.
Councilman Rick Burger said “$26,000 is a lot of money. We have seven council members that are responsible to the county. There are entries made in this [cash book] every dam time. Didn’t anyone attempt to do anything?”
Councilman Mike Morris then stated, “The state audits the county every year, but this was not discovered until 2012?”
Wright said the state agency suggested county officials, and later state auditors, go back several years to find the problem.
“What was discovered was that when Dave [Crockett] took office, the same problem existed. Not to the same level of what we are talking today, but the cash book was a little less than $1,000 over what the bank statements showed,” he said.
Wright said hiring an accounting firm would be costly to find voided checks that were not properly processed, among other issues. Wright said over the seven years that Crockett was treasurer, “you are probably talking about $700 to $800 million coming through the treasurer’s office in terms of property tax dollars and everything else processed in that office. [The $26,000] represents a relatively small, very small percentage,” he said.
“The State Board of Accounts has not gotten to the point where they feel like they can say that money was misappropriated or anything other than possibly bad bookkeeping was taking place,” Wright said.
The state agency, Wright said, interviewed several employees and officials during its audit. “It would have been very, very difficult for anybody working in an administrative position in the treasurer’s office to have absconded with tax dollars,” Wright said. “No one person could have done everything to accomplish that. They would have been caught on an internal check.”
The Board of Accounts has not yet released its 2013 supplemental treasurer’s report. However, in its 2013 general report of the county, the agency noted “a lack of oversight on monthly bank reconcilements: Unidentified differences were improperly labeled to indicate they had been identified, when they were actually being carried forward month after month.”
Ryan Oilar, council administrator, said part of the state agency’s recommendation is that a decision on the issue be made in a public meeting. The state agency recommends both County Commissioners and County Council vote on the matter. The council committee voted 3-0 to pass the issue to the full council for a decision at its May 20 meeting.
Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or email@example.com.