Even a sound financial report and a full annual audit couldn’t take the bad taste out of the Linn County Board of Commissioners’ mouths following the second case of financial fraud that came to light in less than five years. The largest and most recent resulted in the embezzlement of approximately $235,000 over the past eight years.
The 2020 audit, conducted by Tigard-based Pauly, Rogers and Co., and reviewed by the county on Tuesday, was complicated by numerous factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic. But the most troubling issue was what audit officers called a “significant internal control gap.”
This shortcoming refers to the case of Angela Adams, a former longtime office manager of the Linn County Planning and Building Department. She was indicted in January for first-degree robbery and first-degree aggravated robbery after allegedly embezzling funds by underreporting her expenses and pocketing the difference.
This is actually the second instance in the past five years where county funds have allegedly been misappropriated for personal gain. Former county chief financial officer Brandi Aston did not contest the 2019 embezzlement of $6,000 of county funds for personal expenses – including a designer handbag and a liner for her swimming pool.
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Both experiences have left county officials scratching their heads, wondering how missing funds could have gone unnoticed for so many years when there are annual audits of every department in the county. Commissioner Sherrie Sprenger said having the right financial policies in place was an important goal she had with her during her first term on the board.
“I had planned to come to this board with some kind of suggestions…about how we can move forward and have confidence in our internal controls,” she said at the board meeting. board meeting on Tuesday. “Which is a fancy way of saying ‘money doesn’t get stolen’.”
An internal review of how each department reports and verifies its spending was suggested, as well as the request for specific types of audits that look for the kinds of discrepancies that indicate fraud.
“Expanding the scope of our audits will provide another set of welcome checks and balances for us,” Commissioner Roger Nyquist said after the meeting. “And we have to.”
The county’s contract with Pauly, Rogers and Co. ends after this latest audit, meaning Linn County will go through a new public process to find an auditing firm for the next several years. Many companies will be able to compete for the contract, including the county’s current auditing company.
The county typically contracts for six to eight years with a single company, according to county officials.