Morgan County receives “poor” rating from state auditor

Citing a lack of strong management of properties and accounting problems, a Missouri state audit report has rated Morgan County as “poor,” its lowest possible rating.

State Auditor Thomas Schweich noted that while his office found no evidence of criminal activity, a number of clerical errors by multiple divisions within the county elicited the low grade.

“In a lot of counties, we found embezzlers, but we didn’t find that here,” Schweich said. “There just wasn’t a lot of precision in the way money was handled.”

Among those concerns were a tax ceiling issue, which accounted roughly $1.8 million in the wrong column, improper segregation of duties within the sheriff’s office, and a litany of other bookkeeping problems.

The auditor’s office also found the county had no long-term plans put in place for the $1.3 million in their fund for 13 Neighborhood Improvement Districts.

“We don’t want to embarrass anybody or make anybody feel bad; we’re just trying to keep everyone on procedure,” Schweich said.

One focal point in the report summary stated that by the end of 2012, the county had over-collected property taxes by $1.8 million since 2008.

However, Morgan County Clerk Cathy Daniels called the statement misleading at best.

Daniels explained in an e-mail that when a county has a sales tax and a tax levy, the county is required to do a “sales tax roll back” on its levy. Instead, the county made a clerical error.

“It was reported under ‘voluntary roll back’ instead of ‘sales tax roll back,’” Daniels said. “It was rolled back the appropriate amount, just not under the correct column; therefore, it appears we did not do a ‘sales tax roll back.’”

The county put the $1.8 million over four years into the wrong column on the spreadsheet, and the state cited it as evidence of over-collection instead of misallocation.

Schweich agreed with Daniels Monday and said the $1.8 million was “what (the county) wanted to collect.” The audit also reports multiple county oversights in terms of maintaining proper bureaucracy. The Auditor’s office “was unable to determine if all monies were accounted for, deposited, and disbursed properly” within the sheriff’s office, the report said.

Multiple late deposits, improper segregation of duties and a failure to provide a monthly list of liabilities were marks weighed against the Sheriff’s office.

The audit found “the Sheriff has not established adequate segregation of accounting duties and does not perform supervisory reviews.” Specifically, the sheriff should have two accountants: one who oversees and manages the fee bank account and another that handles the inmate bank account.

The sheriff’s office also had problems keeping track of receipts, including one occasion when it failed to account for almost $500, possibly because that amount was included in the previous month’s deposit.

“However, because no records are kept showing which bonds are included in which deposit, we also could not determine the reason for the difference,” the report stated.

The auditor recommended the sheriff’s office account for the numerical sequence of receipt slips and reconcile receipt slips issued with deposits.

Morgan County Sheriff Jim Petty said his staff is preparing deposit summaries, including receipt numbers for all deposits and bond deposits. He said they are using the summaries to account for the numerical sequence of receipt slips and to reconcile all receipts to deposits. The computer system malfunctioned during the audit period, which may have caused some of these issues, Petty said.

The auditor also discovered $4,900 in seized cash in evidence bags that wasn’t accounted for by the sheriff’s office. Petty said his department plans to start performing an annual physical inventory of all seized property, including cash.

To view the full audit report, visit www.auditor.mo.gov, click on “Audits in Progress” under “Popular Links” on the home page, and then click on “Morgan County” in list.

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