An outside review of the La Plata County Treasurer’s Office found multiple issues in the department, but county officials say most have been fixed.
In March, County Treasurer Allison Aichele asked to hire an employee with a higher skill level to rectify problems within the department, issues she said were exacerbated by workload and staff turnover.
“I have confidence we’ve done things correctly,” Aichele said at that time. “The solution is to hire an employee who can prove we’ve done it accurately.”
The county in turn hired Albuquerque-based Axiom to review the department, which found a number of errors in four categories: cash receipts, tax lien sales, specific ownership tax and cash disbursements and journal entries.
Despite a number of process and bookkeeping errors, the review found no evidence of wrongdoing or missing assets, commissioners said.
Axiom reviewed cash receipts for two months selected at random – December 2016 and January 2017 – and found 42 errors out of 526 transactions.
Mistakes included incorrectly posting statements (such as posting duplicate versions) and not posting them in a timely manner. In a few instances, statements were either over- or understated.
Chris Garner of Axiom said errors with cash-receipt processing happened in about one of every 10 transactions.
“That is probably a high error rate compared to what we’re used to seeing,” he told La Plata County commissioners on Wednesday.
For tax lien sales, Axiom found that “cash receipts related to the tax lien sale deposits and the refunds of unused tax lien deposits for unsuccessful bidders were not recorded in the Treasurer’s ledger.”
“As a result, we were unable to agree the amounts of the deposits and refunds from the Treasurer’s ledger to the bank statement and we were unable to agree those amounts recorded … to the reconciliation,” the report said.
The missing transactions were tracked in a separate Excel spreadsheet, the report said.
Axiom selected at random 20 cash disbursement and journal entries from January, February and March 2017, all of which lacked proper review and approval, according to the report.
Other similar errors were found in a select number of disbursement transactions and cash disbursements, most of which were either not made within a timely manner or did not include appropriate documentation.
Garner said Axiom was tasked with determining how many errors existed in the Treasurer’s Office, but not the cause.
Aichele, speaking to commissioners Wednesday, maintained the errors were because of a lack of staffing and proper training.
She said the department has adopted and put in place Axiom’s recommendations, and that new staff was hired that is properly trained in accounting.
La Plata County Commissioner Julie Westendorff said via email, “Commissioners have a vested interest in the safekeeping of the county’s resources.”
“We are pleased that, while the report revealed shortcomings in the treasurer’s office processes, the county’s assets were indeed safe,” she wrote. “The commissioners are eager to work with the treasurer’s office to implement improved procedures that eliminate the operational concerns that the auditor revealed, and ensure accountability for the treasurer’s office going forward.”
Aichele received a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 2013 at Fort Lewis College, earning the highest GPA of the school’s accounting students. She was elected county treasurer in 2014.