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Barger receives first ever citation in audit

Rowan County Clerk of Superior Court Jeff Barger has received his first audit citation in his time in office.

The audit, released this month, only included one finding, which said the clerk’s office “did not compel the timely filing of estate inventories in accordance with state law, resulting in a loss or delay in the collection of court costs and fees.” Auditors inspecting the clerk of court’s office identified seven estates where filing didn’t occur in a timely fashion.

Barger said the finding was likely related to his office’s staff giving some people more time to file needed information in specific cases.

To date this year, Barger said, his office has processed more than 1,000 different estate inventories. He said the staff working in the clerk of court’s office could have asked a sheriff’s deputy to go pick up a person, but giving the people more time all depends on the individual situation.

The clerk of court’s official response to the audit stated: “Our office strives to handle estates in an efficient manner and to comply with statutory requirements, while being mindful that the person handling the estate has just lost a loved one.”

Overall, Barger described the audit finding as minor, but said citations are something he’d rather avoid altogether, especially since his record in audits was perfect until 2014. He said several other, nearby counties were cited in their respective audits for the same issue.

“To my knowledge, it’s the first time I’ve ever had a write-up in an audit,” he said. “I don’t like write-ups at all, but overall I was very happy with the audit.”

He’s served 16 consecutive years in office. Barger’s current string of successful election bids began in 1998. He was re-elected this year. Barger was appointed to fill the term of former clerk Ed Norvell, who left to return to private law practice. Barger ran for office in 1994, but was unsuccessful.

As for the future, Barger said is office would monitor the tracking system for estates more closely, but also continue to take into consideration individual circumstances.

The audit stated the basis for the examination wasn’t a special circumstance. The audit was a routine inspection.

The audit also addressed various financial figures from July 1, 2013 to Jan. 31, 2014:

• During the audit period, the clerk’s office collected $8.63 million in cash for various fines, fees, daily court costs and other matters.

• The clerk’s office transferred $28,177.95 in abandoned property to the state treasurer. Transfers occur when a person who is legally entitled to the property fails to make a valid claim within a prescribed amount of time.

• The clerk’s office collected $215,250.26 in estate fees. All estates are charged an application fee plus an assessment based on the value of the estate’s inventory.

• The clerk’s office collected $331,468 in traffic infraction-related costs.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246

 

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