An Afternoon That Lasted Six Months

December 10, 1993

When Carroll County's Narcotics Task Force agreed to have its books audited last May, the group's coordinator, F. Barton Walker III, said nonchalantly it could be done "in an afternoon." Six months later, we are still awaiting the audit's completion.

Since last spring, when the question of the task force squirreling away money was first posed, task force members have assured the commissioners and the public that they can account for the thousands of dollars' worth of cash and assets they have seized over the years. Moreover, county State's Attorney Thomas H. Hickman assured the commissioners that the task force had not hidden $50,000, as rumored.

County Auditor Tim Hartman's initial audit of task force accounts revealed that it had only $17,000 in two bank accounts. However, the preliminary review did not address how the task force disposed of or spent the thousands of dollars in assets it had seized over several years.

Mr. Hartman completed a more thorough review about a month ago, but he has been waiting for the task force to complete its comments on the audit before he releases it. The length of time the taskforce is taking to assemble its answers suggests there may be a number of critical findings.

Rather than let this process drag on, the commissioners should set a deadline. The task force has been given sufficient time to respond. Further delay will not resolve problems but only will raise suspicions. If there are problems with the task force's handling of the money, they should be disclosed quickly so that corrective measures can be taken.

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