County dinged in state report

Auditor says county officials need to better document ‘public purpose’ of expenditures

Chickasaw County officials need to better determine and document the public purpose of certain expenditures, according to Iowa State Auditor Mary Mosiman.

Mosiman released a reaudit report on Thursday on Chickasaw County for the period July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016. The reaudit also covered items applicable to the period July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017. 

The auditor’s report calls into question about $1500 worth of questionable expenditures made by the county, and also recommended that the county establish better procedures for postage and landline phone claims, cell phone policies, review of employee timesheets, proper documentation of vacation payouts, and pop machine receipts.

The report also recommended that county officials should consult legal counsel to determine the disposition of the payment for hours worked and access to confidential and other information by someone never officially hired.

The reaudit was performed at the request of a county official pursuant to Section 11.6(4)(a)(2) of the Code of Iowa. The reaudit was requested due to concerns regarding county employees’ paid leave and the hiring of the Veterans Affairs Director. 

According to the report, in January 2017, the Veterans Affairs Director resigned his position. In April 2017, the county paid a former board of supervisor $202 for 15 hours worked while acting as the Veterans Affairs Director. However, the former board member had not been officially hired for this position by the Veterans Commission. Because the former supervisor had not been officially hired for this position, the county made the payment through accounts payable rather than payroll and the appropriate federal and state taxes were not withheld and paid on this compensation. In addition, this individual had access to confidential and other county information for a period of time that only someone officially hired for the position should have had access to.

The audit recommended the county consult legal counsel to determine the disposition of the payment for hours worked and access to confidential and other information by someone never officially hired by the Veterans Commission or the County. In the future, only persons officially approved and hired should perform duties for and be paid by the county or be provided access to county records. In addition, the compensation paid to the former board member should have been paid through payroll with the appropriate state and federal tax withholdings applied. Also, the county should ensure only persons officially approved and hired perform duties for and be paid by the county or be provided access to county records. 

Regarding expenditures, Mosiman recommended the county determine and document the public purpose served by certain expenditures before authorizing further such payments. Also, all claims should be properly supported by an invoice or other supporting documentation and receipts should be deposited intact. 

Mosiman said Chickasaw County responded favorably to the recommendations included in the reaudit report, and is making the recommended changes.

The audit identified certain expenditures that may not meet the requirements of public purpose since the public benefits to be derived have not been clearly documented. According to the opinion, it is possible for certain expenditures to meet the test of serving a public purpose under certain circumstances, although such items “will certainly be subject to a deserved close scrutiny.” 

“The line to be drawn between a proper and an improper purpose is very thin,” the audit said.

 

For more of this article, see Friday's New Hampoton Tribune.

New Hampton Tribune

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New Hampton, IA 50659
Phone: (641) 394-2111
Email: tribune@nhtrib.com

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