by: Scott McCaulley
A report released Tuesday by Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway gives the City of Forsyth a “Poor” Rating after an audit discovered over $3400 of City Funds that were missing in addition to delays in depositing Utility Funds.
According to a release issued with the report, the investigation began in October of 2019 when Forsyth officials reported a burglary from the City’s Vault to the Taney County Sheriff’s Office. That investigation led to a request from then Sheriff Jimmie Russell to the State Auditor’s Office to assist with investigation which eventually led to the Forsyth Board of Alderman to request a full audit. That audit found discrepancies in the Utility Department under then Utility Clerk Carla Combs as well as other details surrounding the theft of city funds.
The complete press release and a link to the full State Audit is below:
An audit of the City of Forsyth released today by State Auditor Nicole Galloway gives a rating of “poor” after finding numerous concerns, including more than $1,400 missing from the city’s vault and another $2,000 in utility deposits that were received but never deposited. In addition to the missing money, the audit also found that thousands in utility deposits were not deposited until long after utility service had been activated.
“My office stands ready to assist when financial concerns are identified. That’s exactly what we did when the Taney County Sheriff asked for our help to review accounting discrepancies that came to light after a theft from the city’s vault,” Auditor Galloway said. “The resulting audit details how thousands in city funds went missing and also highlights serious concerns with the city’s financial controls. I urge officials to implement our recommendations as soon as possible to better protect taxpayer dollars.”
On October 15, 2019, city officials reported a burglary from the city’s vault to the Taney County Sheriff’s office. In December, the Taney County Sheriff’s office contacted the State Auditor’s Office and requested assistance in reviewing discrepancies and accounting regularities related to utility deposits and billings. After an initial review determined the need for further investigation, the city’s board of aldermen requested an audit.
The audit found that between May 2019 and November 2019, Carla Combs, the former utility clerk, did not deposit $2,000 of recorded utility deposits, all paid in cash. In an interview with auditors, Combs could not explain why the money was not deposited. In addition to the missing money, the audit also found that $6,400 in utility deposits were not deposited until between 20 and more than 121 days after activation of utility services. The timing of these deposits appears questionable.
The audit also detailed the events surrounding the theft from the city’s vault. A master key that was missing from the city clerk’s desk was used to open the city vault, and $1,403 was stolen. The missing cash consisted of $1,341 of municipal court receipts and a $62 utility payment.
The Board of Aldermen is working with law enforcement on criminal prosecution regarding the missing deposits, stolen money, untimely and questionable utility deposits.
The audit found lack of proper oversight over the city’s financial functions led to the missing money and the questionable utility deposits. The report recommended ensuring independent reviews of accounting processes, better receipting processes and improved controls over keys.
A copy of the complete audit report released today is available here.