Sheriff's Office faulted in audit

Report criticizes handling of cash, recordkeeping

Missing money details not stated

Failure to separate duties viewed as a key problem

Anne Arundel

May 07, 2004|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

An audit that led to a continuing criminal investigation into the possible embezzlement of thousands of dollars from the Anne Arundel County Sheriff's Office faults the department for sloppy cash-handling and inadequate recordkeeping.

The report, obtained yesterday by The Sun through a Freedom of Information Act request, blames the Sheriff's Office for failing to separate money-handling duties "to ensure no one was able to both perpetrate and conceal errors and irregularities."

The report does not say how much money is missing, but sources have said it could be as much as $10,000 from an obscure account that, until the audit began, accepted cash in lieu of checks when deputies were hired to serve court papers.

"We were unable to trace all cash receipts through to the deposit with the Arundel Center Cashier," the audit states.

The audit, dated April 30, also found that the Sheriff's Office did not make other deposits quickly enough, hanging on to some checks for as long as 38 days.

One Sheriff's Office clerical worker has been fired as a result of the probe, and the police investigation into missing funds is nearing an end.

Sheriff George F. Johnson said in his written response to the audit that he "terminated" a "dishonest civilian employee."

Reached by telephone yesterday, he declined to elaborate.

"I have made a commitment to Chief [of Police P. Thomas] Shanahan not to make a comment while this investigation is ongoing," Johnson said. "I was told that ... they would look forward to ending their investigation and talking with the state's attorney's office."

The Anne Arundel County police, called in March to investigate after the audit uncovered possible embezzlement, said this week that they have not completed their investigation.

The issue of one worker wearing too many fiscal hats has repeatedly been at the root of employee thefts in several county departments in recent years, including in the county jail, landfill, state's attorney's office and Department of Public Works.

Audits commonly recommend dividing money-taking and financial recordkeeping duties among several employees to provide a system of checks and balances.

"Generally, in departments other than the Office of Finance, duties are not segregated," said County Auditor Teresa O. Sutherland.

Sutherland would not comment on the audit of the sheriff's office.

Johnson, who is in his third elected term as sheriff, said he has been working with the auditor's office to try to make the changes recommended in her report, although his office is short-staffed.

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