Audit shows $4,090 stolen from city
|Trinity Standard - Local News
Stories Added - March 2010
Copyright 2010 - Polk County Publishing Company
Trinity Standard -
TRINITY – After a special audit confirmed the theft of $4,090.88 in city funds, city officials have instituted policy changes to try to avoid similar problems in the future. During their meeting last week, members of the Trinity City Council approved a policy requiring a nightly deposit be made by city employees to insure cash collected is not allowed to accumulate. Council members were surprised to learn during the March 11 meeting that the nightly deposits were not being made. They were told that while the nightly deposits were once routine, city employees had not been making them since Phil Patchett took over as city manager in 2003. An apparent suicide attempt by Patchett on Feb. 16 set the investigation into the possible theft of city funds in motion. After taking an overdose of prescription drugs, Patchett telephoned Trinity Police Chief Steven Jones and apologized for taking city funds. Jones and other city officials, including Mayor Lyle Stubbs, kept Patchett on the phone while searchers – including members of the Trinity Volunteer Fire Department – attempted to locate him. He was found unresponsive and almost unconscious parked inside his personal pickup truck in a remote area of the Trinity Cove subdivision a little over an hour after the search was begun. During his conversation with Jones, Stubbs and others, Patchett reportedly indicated he had taken $4,080. It was believed the money was gambled away. After recovering from the apparent overdose, Patchett submitted his resignation as city manager and officials have indicated evidence in the case – including the special audit report – has been turned over to District Attorney Joe Ned Dean for possible prosecution. City officials have indicated their primary concern is to recover the stolen money as well as the cost of the special audit – which totaled $1,350. “This was a terrible situation,” Stubbs said this week. “I am relieved that no more than the $4,090 was taken. The audit showed that the amount that is missing was within $10 of what Phil said was taken.” Stubbs and interim City Manager Buddy Drake said recommendations made by the Huntsville audit firm of Kenneth C. Davis and Co. have already been implemented to avoid this problem in the future. Drake also had critical comments about the audit company, which also handled the city’s regular audit last year. “I told the auditors that they failed you by not telling you that a daily deposit was not being made,” Drake told the city council last week. “The city has not been making a nightly deposit for years and they (the auditors) should have caught that and reported it to the council. They didn’t,” he said. “I don’t care if the city only takes in $47, that money should be put into the night depository at the bank at the end of the business day,” Drake said. He indicated there are many days in which the city takes in a great deal of money and has a large amount of cash on hand. By letting that cash build up over a period of days can create a big temptation that could be avoided by simply putting the money in the bank. Following the meeting, Drake noted the special audit conducted by the city included both city funds as well as those held by the Trinity Economic and Industrial Development Corporation (TEIDC). TEIDC was created by the city to help promote economic development and receives a portion of the city’s sales tax to fund its operation. The special audit of TEIDC funds showed no problems. In their report on the missing $4,090.88 in city funds, the auditors made a number of recommendations. In addition to making a nightly deposit, they recommended: • Stop allowing employees to cash their pay check out of the city’s cash drawer • Issue pay checks only on specified days. It was noted that in the past Patchett and other city employees were allowed to obtain their pay early. • Stop the practice of paying city inspectors for their services in cash out of the city’s cash drawer. The auditors said the inspectors should submit an invoice to the city and the city should pay them by check through the normal process. Drake said this week that all of the recommendations made in the special audit report have been implemented. “We have to do what ever we can to make sure the city’s money is safe. This money doesn’t belong to me, the city employees or the city council. It belongs to the citizens of Trinity,” Drake said. “If you lose the confidence of the citizens in how you are handling their money, then you are in big trouble. We are going to do what is necessary to keep that confidence,” he added.