State au­dit iden­ti­fies miss­ing funds

$7,700 miss­ing from Sher­iff’s De­part­ment Civil Divi­sion

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Craig Lyons

The Lake County Sher­iff ’s De­part­ment says what hap­pened to more than $7,700 that went miss­ing from one of its di­vi­sions in 2017 can’t be de­ter­mined.

The miss­ing $7,761.24 from the Sher­iff ’s De­part­ment Civil Divi­sion was flagged in a state au­dit, but the de­part­ment said an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion could not de­ter­mine where the money went. The In­di­ana State Board of Ac­counts re­leased an au­dit of Lake County that found the Sher­iff ’s De­part­ment Civil Divi­sion failed to re­port “mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion (theft) of pub­lic funds,” ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ment.

Lake County Chief Wil­liam Pater­son said the de­part­ment can’t can’t ac­count for the money.

“We don’t know what hap­pened,” Pater­son said. “We don’t know if it was mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion.”

The au­dit found four de­posits, to­tal­ing $7,761.24, from June 29, 2017, to July 14, 2017, that were never de­posited in the bank.

The re­ported mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion would have hap­pened un­der the ad­min­is­tra­tion of for­mer Sher­iff John Bun­cich, who was con­victed of bribery and wire fraud in Au­gust 2017 and is cur­rently serv­ing a morethan-15-year term in fed­eral prison.

De­posits in the divi­sion were

not reg­u­larly de­posited, Pater­son said, and the money had been left in a desk drawer.

Pater­son said the de­part­ment did an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion but the amount of time that had lapsed and amount of ac­cess that had for­merly been al­lowed in that area made it dif­fi­cult. Pater­son said any­one in the de­part­ment could walk through the area, and there were no cam­eras and no way to iden­tify what hap­pened.

“There was no way to pin down when it was taken or by whom,” Pater­son said.

Aside from point­ing out the miss­ing funds, the state took is­sue with the de­part­ment’s fail­ure to re­port the miss­ing de­posits.

The State Board of Ac­counts said In­di­ana law re­quires that any pub­lic of­fi­cer who sus­pects mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of funds should no­tify the state and pros­e­cut­ing at­tor­ney.

“Due to poor in­ter­nal con­trols, it could not be de­ter­mined who was re­spon­si­ble for the re­ceipts and re­lated col­lec­tions,” the au­dit said. “At the time of the miss­ing de­posits, bank rec­on­cil­i­a­tions were not per­formed timely, nor was a proper sys­tem of over­sight or review in place.”

Pater­son said the de­part­ment was not aware of the State Board of Ac­counts re­quire­ment, but when it was brought up, it was prop­erly re­ported.

“They were made aware of it,” Pater­son said.

In April 2018, the Civil Divi­sion did an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the funds, ac­cord­ing to the au­dit, and pro­vided it to a field ex­am­iner in June 2018.

The de­part­ment has al­ready taken steps to pre­vent fu­ture in­ci­dents, Pater­son said.

“There will be no point in time where cash is left unat­tended,” he said.

Sher­iff Os­car Martinez Jr. said, in a let­ter to the state, that an ac­count­ing firm dis­cov­ered the miss­ing de­posits, and an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion started.

“How­ever, the staff in the Civil Divi­sion failed to timely no­tify the SBA of the in­ci­dent,” Martinez said in the let­ter.

Since the in­ci­dent was dis­cov­ered, Martinez said the de­part­ment has started train­ing em­ploy­ees to re­port any mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of funds, has im­proved se­cu­rity in the divi­sion’s of­fices, seg­re­gated job du­ties for em­ploy­ees han­dling cash and in­creased over­sight of ac­counts.

Pater­son said the point of the au­dit is to iden­tify prob­lems and what must be done to cor­rect any is­sues. He said the de­part­ment has taken that crit­i­cism and is mak­ing im­prove­ments.

“I think the process is work­ing,” Pater­son said. “

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