Forensic Audit finds mismanagement, abuse in Saline Co. Clerk's - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Forensic Audit finds mismanagement, abuse in Saline Co. Clerk's office

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SALINE COUNTY -- A forensic audit,  commissioned by the Saline County Board, makes serious claims of mismanagement and abuse against the county clerk and recorders office. 

More than one million dollars.

That's the financial impact on Saline County from mismanagement, waste and abuse in the County Clerk and Recorder's office, according to a forensic audit obtained by News 3.

The 86-page report, written by Oregon-based auditing firm Marsh Minick, spanned 34 months and investigated complaints against Saline County Clerk and Recorder Kim Buchanan.

The findings included commingling of funds, suspicious reimbursement claims and apparent willful non-compliance with laws. 

Buchanan agreed to an interview with News 3 Wednesday, but after saying she hadn't done anything wrong, refused to answer questions related to the report and potential wrongdoing, walking away from the interview when pressed for answers. 

Auditors found a number of significant problems in the clerk's office, including dysfunctional risk controls, apparent willful non-compliance with laws, and direct evidence of concerning and suspicious activity.

"The auditors confirmed what we thought, plus they found other things," said Saline County Board vice chairman Joe Jackson, who is among county lawmakers at odds with Buchanan.

Jackson says Buchanan refused to follow a county ordinance requiring a monthly financial report on her office. 

Buchanan says the mandate is illegal.

A court order, signed last August, requires Buchanan to honestly and accurately fill out those reports, but the audit finds she is potentially violating that court order because the provided data is not accurate. 

In a phone call Wednesday morning, Saline County Treasurer Jeff Murrie said every report he's received from Buchanan is incomplete or contains inaccurate information. 

Other findings in the report include commingling of funds from different levies. 

The auditor's report shows that from 2013 to 2014, the clerk's office misapplied at least $400,000 from the county's Social Security Levy to cover a shortfall in the IMRF Levy, and paid nearly $600,000 from the IMRF levy to the Egyptian Health Department Levy. 

In an off-camera conversation Friday, Buchanan said moving funds from one levy to another is common practice with her and former county clerks.

The audit says the commingling of funds is problematic with an Illinois law that states, "An officer, director, agent, or employee of, or affiliated in any capacity with any unit of local government or school district commits misapplication of funds when he or she knowingly misapplies any of the moneys, funds, or credits of the unit of local government or school district."

Jackson says Buchanan needed board permission to move the money.

Buchanan disagreed.

"She didn't get authorization to do it from the board," Jackson said. "If she got any authorization we're not aware of it. She told us after the fact, probably six months later."

Auditors concluded the commingling of funds, combined with the delay in reporting it to the board, seemed an intentional act to deceive taxpayers.

The report also raised concerns about suspicious reimbursement claims from Buchanan, including a claim for more than $1,300 fir mileage used during election travel.

It says Buchanan could not provide an itemized list, including dates and locations for how she came up with the mileage, which appears suspiciously deceptive and untruthful.

The report claims she also failed to provide the information requested in numerous Freedom of Information Act requests from the county board seeking an itemization of mileage.

"We have asked repeatedly for documentation," Jackson said. "We've even sent three FOIA requests to her asking for documentation on this mileage, but we have never received anything."

The report says the the lack of information provided to the county board in response to the FOIAs may be a concerted effort to intentionally deceive others about actual mileage driven.

Jackson said, per the auditor's recommendation, the county board will meet with the state's attorney to discuss the situation.

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