News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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April 29, 2014

State favors account adjustment, not payback

Neither former treasurer nor other county officials need to reimburse, State Board of Accounts says

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana’s State Board of Accounts is recommending that Vigo County’s Board of Commissioners and the Vigo County Council approve a bookkeeping adjustment to reconcile a discrepancy discovered in 2012 during an audit of the county treasurer’s office — and not to hold county officials, including former treasurer David Crockett, responsible for reimbursing the county’s coffers.

Crockett served as county treasurer from 2006 to 2012. He was elected county clerk in November 2012 and started in that position in January 2013.

The Board of Accounts in an audit from January through the end of December of 2012, reported a shortfall of $26,105.81 for cash on hand in the county’s cash book versus its bank deposit balances.

In an email Tuesday to commissioners, the county auditor and treasurer, the Board of Accounts recommended an adjustment to reconcile the deficiency.

“Our recommendation is for the commissioners and council to approve an adjustment to clear up the cash necessary to balance [the] issue at 12/31/13,” Gina Gambaiani, field supervisor for the State Board of Accounts, stated in the email.

“We are not asking any official or employee to reimburse the county for the cash necessary to balance and are not holding any official or employee personally liable for the cash necessary to balance.

“We believe the county has the right to request reimbursement, but that is not our recommendation at this time,” the email states.

“Our objective is to get the cash necessary to balance [the] issue at 12/31/13 resolved so the county can move forward with the books in balance,” the email states.

A committee of the Vigo County Council discussed the audit at an April 16 meeting, voting to pass the measure to the full council for discussion and action. The committee did not make a recommendation from options suggested in a state audit.

In its audit review, the state suggested options of having former Vigo County Treasurer David Crockett, who is the current county clerk, pay the shortfall; hiring an outside accounting firm to audit past records and if any discrepancies were discovered, then the county or Crockett would be responsible for that amount; or passing a resolution that would simply reconcile the county’s cash books with a record of bank statements.

Those options came before Tuesday’s email from Gambaiani.

Gambaiani, in the email, stated the discrepancy did exist prior to January 2006 and it would be the county’s responsibility, should it decide on an audit, to research back to the start of the errors necessary to balance up to December 2013.

“We are recommending approving the adjustment because we feel it would be very costly to the county to hire someone to identify all the necessary corrections if the records exist to perform the research,” the email states.

Judy Anderson, president of the Vigo County Board of Commissioners, said she had requested a written recommendation from the state agency.

“We don’t feel there is missing money. The issue for us is, are we setting a precedence for making a decision on something that we have absolutely no control about? That position [of treasurer] is elected. Commissioners have no control over any elected officials or their offices,” Anderson said.

Commissioners are the executive branch of county government, but the board, Anderson said, is still reviewing the state’s recommendation. “We may just suggest the state’s recommendation to the County Council. We will have to put in a request to the County Council, and they will also have to approve it.

“We [board of commissioners] have not decided on this for sure. We have received the state’s recommendation,” Anderson said. “We know the Board of Accounts went back seven years [in an audit] and having to go back beyond that would probably cost way more than $26,000.”

Commissioner Mike Ciolli said he first wants Vigo County Attorney Michael Wright to review the state’s recommendation. Ciolli said he will seek Wright’s opinion on the county’s next step.

A voice message seeking comment was left on a cellular phone Tuesday for the third commissioner, Brad Anderson.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

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