Finances at Sheriff's Office, ABC under more scrutiny

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@salisburypost.comMissing money at the Sheriff’s Office and the lack of profits from the Rowan-Kannapolis ABC system prompted county officials to indicate they make take action in both instances.
Sam Leder, auditor with Potter & Co., P.A., cited the possible misappropriation of cash from the Sheriff’s Office in the audit report.
In March, the county placed Kathy Hudgins, secretary to Sheriff George Wilhelm, on leave while the State Bureau of Investigation launched an investigation.
Hudgins, who resigned on June 17, wrote in her letter of resignation that she looks forward to clearing her name.
In his report to management, Leder noted that one employee “seemed to be performing all of the financial functions for this department without adequate supervision.” He pointed out that daily cash receipt registers were not being compared to the corresponding deposit slip by a different employees.
He cited several other problems in how the receipts and cash were handled.
“We recommend that this department establish policies and procedures for proper handling of all cash receipts and to make certain all financial activity is properly supervised,” Leder wrote.
One of his recommendations will apparently be implemented quickly.
County Manager Gary Page said Friday he has talked with Finance Department officials, and the county’s internal auditor will visit each major cash collection point.
Page said the county’s recently hired internal auditor will check on anyone who handles cash, including those at the Sheriff’s Office, the airport, Health Department and other locations.
Page said he has not received any official report from investigators on how much money is missing or the status of the investigation.
The SBI has not completed its investigation, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
The audit report also noted the ABC system gave the county $25,000 in profits to be shared by the county and its 10 municipalities.
Commissioner Tina Hall noted that many other county and municipal ABC systems across the state turn over hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Hall cited several counties that have sales equal or less than Rowan/Kannapolis’ $7 million but are more profitable.
She cited Craven County, which turned over $312,000 on sales of $6.3 million, and Gastonia, which turned over $508,000 on sales of $6.7 million. Mooresville, which had sales of $5.6 million, turned over $429,000 to the city coffers.
She noted that in years past, the former Rowan ABC system turned over annual profits of as much as $872,000.
Hall said it appears something is “terribly wrong” with the local system.
Leder said his firm does the audit of the local ABC system, adding that profit is not the primary concern.
Leder told the board that it has “an absolute right” to look into the finances and operations of the ABC system. He added, “You appoint the board.”
Chairman Carl Ford indicated support for Hall’s position.
Leder noted that financial information on all ABC systems is available on the State ABC Web site and is public.
Contact Jessie Burchette by phone at 704-797-4254.