Garfield County sheriff says fiscal problems being resolved
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Accounting problems at the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, recently highlighted in an audit of the county’s 2008 finances, are being taken care of and will not be repeated, said Sheriff Lou Vallario this week.
Appearing before the board of county commissioners on Aug. 3, Vallario outlined a number of areas where his staff is updating its fiscal management procedures.
“This goes way back, eight-plus years or more,” Vallario told commissioners at a work session, indicating that some of the problems date back to the tenure of his predecessor, former sheriff Tom Dalessandri.
He then proceeded to outline areas where the auditors, McMahan and Associates of Beaver Creek, has found fault with his use of the Keefe Commissary Network, which calculates and stores information relating to inmate funds.
Specifically, he told commissioners, his staff is working on improvements to the balancing and reconciliation of the accounts, which were points where the auditors felt the system fell short.
When inmates are booked into the jail, Vallario explained in a letter to commissioners, an account is set up which details the amount of cash the inmate was carrying at the time, as well as fees “for services such as bond, booking fees, envelopes, pens, medical, phone cares and commissary items.”
As fees are assessed or items purchased by the inmate, the letter explained, the amounts are debited from the account. If money is sent to an inmate, it is credited to the account.
Upon release from jail, an inmate is issued a check for the balance of his or her account, which is another source of concern to the auditors. According to the audit, the balance amounts indicated in the Keefe system “does not reconcile to the cash balance” actually reflected in the audit analysis.
The auditor, Paul Backes, also noted that the same problem had been pointed out for the prior three years and had never been fixed.
Vallario and his finance officer, Cathy Redman, reported that the reason for the discrepancy is that, in many cases, the inmates never cash the checks they get upon release from the jail. The resulting imbalance in the accounting was what triggered the auditor’s notice, Vallario said.
According to the sheriff, that money is considered abandoned property and ultimately goes to the Great Colorado Pay Back, in which unclaimed checks of various kinds are listed in statewide publicity campaigns in an effort to clear the accounts.
Redman conceded the balances were not monitored closely in the past, and said they are now reconciled monthly, and that other problem areas are under review and being fixed.
Vallario reported that he had talked with Backes about the issues mentioned in the audit, and that Backes “agreed that our process is legitimate.”
Backes could not be reached for comment, but county finance director Lisa Dawson said that, during a conversation with Backes on a number of issues, he had mentioned that he was satisfied that the sheriff’s office is working in the right direction to cure deficiencies in his financial management.
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