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Archive for Friday, July 18, 2003

County’s financial books pass inspection

July 18, 2003

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Douglas County's financial books received a clean bill of health from a team of outside auditors -- a refreshing change from as recently as a couple years ago, a county commissioner said.

"The audit two years ago knocked us out of our chairs," said Commissioner Jere McElhaney, referring to the uncovering of lax oversight in the county treasurer's office. "We were absolutely surprised, and it raised some questions from the commission bench. We sat down with a plan for how to correct things, and now we've accomplished that.

"We've done our job."

The latest audit, released this month, comes after commissioners convened a special oversight committee to keep tabs on the county's financial operations -- particularly those involving the treasurer's office.

It was the Treasurer's Office that landed in auditors' crosshairs two years ago, when it was discovered that the office had left as much as $2.8 million unsecured -- a violation of state law -- and had stockpiled blank checks that had been signed by Treasurer Pat Wells, to be used when Wells was out of the office.

Such instances led commissioners to call in outside help, and -- at least in the eyes of Lowenthal, Singleton, Webb & Wilson, the county's outside auditors -- the advice and scrutiny has paid dividends.

"We noted no matters involving internal controls that we consider to be material weaknesses," the auditors said, in their letter to commissioners.

Craig Weinaug, county administrator, said the good news reflected well on the entire organization, but on two components in particular.

"The efforts of the county treasurer and the county commissioners, jointly, have paid off," Weinaug said. "We've got those problems under control now."




The latest audit noted only a handful of "matters" connected with Douglas County District Court, which receives financing from the county but whose operations remain under the responsibility and control of the state.

Auditors said that the court should install individual locks on cash drawers, deposit funds in the bank the same day they are received, and stop accepting bond money in the form of cash from the Sheriff's Office.

But that's chump change compared to the findings of previous years, officials said.

"There's nothing of any consequence," said Bob Johnson, commission chairman and former insurance executive. "That's good news."

Added McElhaney: "It's sometimes easy to get lax and take your standard operating procedures for granted. It's not that people get lazy, but sometimes they get careless. And we all do that in our own lives.

"It's good to get an audit from an outside agency. We're a public body and we're doing a good job."

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