Basalt library audit shows exec was a lousy bookkeeper
BASALT – An accountant’s review of expenditures made by the former executive director of the Basalt library concluded she was a lousy bookkeeper but couldn’t determine whether all her spending was appropriate.
The Basalt Regional Library District spent $4,000 for a Denver accounting firm to review credit-card expenditures and other expenses for 2010 and 2011, when the institution was run by Kristen Becker. The district’s board of trustees was pressed by a group of residents to investigate if Becker misappropriated funds.
John Cutler and Associates said its investigation was extremely hampered by a lack of documentation of expenses.
“Of the 70 payments selected for testing, we found that there were 23 payments that did not have any supporting documentation and could not be tested,” the accounting firm’s report said. “Out of the remaining 47 items that we did review, we found that 13 payments did not have adequate supporting documentation or documentation was incomplete.”
Bernie Grauer, a newly appointed trustee, said the lack of documentation of expenses sounds an alarm for him. The accounting firm couldn’t come to conclusions about the propriety of spending because it couldn’t determine what the credit cards were used for in so many cases. So much information was missing from the library’s financial records that the results of the accountant’s report were “meaningless,” he said.
“I have no context for this report other than it seems very disturbing on its face,” Grauer said.
But board president Judy Royer interpreted the report to mean that there was no malfeasance or fraud on the part of Becker.
“I think there is frustration and scolding in this report,” she said. The frustration on the part of the accountant is over the poor documentation on what money was spent on. The scolding is a warning for the district to start tracking expenses better, Royer said.
The trustees said they have revamped the tracking of expenses since Becker resigned in mid-December. Hard copies of documents that detail credit-card expenses and other spending are filed in a way that can be tracked easily, said interim library director Barbara Milnor.
Royer said hiring the accountant was worthwhile.
“We weren’t sure there was nothing questionable going on,” she said. Now the district knows.
Grauer disputed that conclusion.
“I think it’s a complete waste of $4,000,” he said.
Audience member Linda Crossland agreed. Crossland is an organizer of Supporters of the Library, a group of residents who complained about Becker’s management style and practices while she was in her position and then used the Colorado Open Records Act to examine her spending when she resigned. The group was frustrated with the lack of documentation on credit-card expenditures.
Crossland told the trustees there was no way of knowing if there was any fraud because of the lack of documentation.
Another member of the group, Valerie Welch, asked why the library district hired the accountant before it tried to find documentation of the expenses.
“If we (Supporters of the Library members) couldn’t find the receipts, how could an auditor find the receipts?” she asked. At the least, Welch said, the results raise “disturbing” questions about Becker’s bookkeeping.
Royer countered that there aren’t many documents that are missing.
“It’s just disorganized,” she said, adding that has received full attention since Becker’s departure.
Other trustees didn’t express what they thought of the report in any detail.
“All you can say with this report is, ‘Hmm, something was going on,'” said Carolyn Kane, who was appointed to fill a vacancy on the board last month.
The answer might never be known. Becker claimed earlier this year that she did nothing wrong. The board voted 7-0 to enter contract negotiations with an accounting firm for its full-blown annual audit for 2011. That annual audit is required by law and reviews all of the library’s expenses. Library employees are trying to find additional documentation of spending before that audit occurs.
If the audit raises flags about spending, the board will contemplate whether it wants to spend more for a “forensic audit” on Becker’s spending. The decision will require defining what such an investigation will accomplish and how much the board will be willing to spend.
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