Audit Meeting Turns Confrontational

Starke County Commissioner Kathy Norem, Starke County Council President Mark Smith and Starke County Commissioner Dan Bridegroom discuss the audit with the media

A meeting to explain the findings of the 2010 State Audit of the Starke County Treasurer’s records suddenly turned confrontational Friday afternoon. The report only listed almost $22,000 that the Auditors could not find for certification.

County Council President, Mark Smith, said there is still over a half million discrepancy for 2009.

“A $523,000 figure was kind of left over from the 2009 audit that is still unresolved,” declared Smith.

But after all was said, Smith opened the meeting up for questioning, and Judy Benninghoff, a Councilwoman, and sister of Treasurer Linda Belork pointed a finger at the auditor’s office.

“My question was that if the Auditor found these amounts as errors, $869,050 for 2010 and this we haven’t been audited on yet so I’m not going to mention that, those were found in a payroll clearing account,” said Benninghoff. “That’s the function of the Auditor’s Office, not the Treasurer’s Office. Of course, they don’t want to hear it, but the truth of the matter is, that discrepancy was caused because of an inflated cash fund balance in the Auditor’s Office. That’s exactly what it is.”

Attorney Marty Lucas though came to the defense of the Auditor’s Office.

“The thing that’s relevant here is the State Board of Account audit reports,” said Lucus. “The audit reports found issues with the Treasurer’s Office, not the Auditor’s Office.”

Smith praised Auditor Kay Chaffins for finding the 2010 discrepancies when given permission to review the matter. He also asked that she delve into the 2009 problems before a forensic auditing firm needed to be hired. Smith said that could cost $70,000-80,000.