Kuhl objects to being left out of audit response discussion

By Sarah Pridgeon

Despite County Treasurer Mary Kuhl’s protests that she was not invited to participate in responding to concerns raised by the annual county audit, the County Commissioners last week declined to add any additional information to their official letter of response.

“The opportunity wasn’t opened up for me to participate,” stated Kuhl, pointing out that the preparation of the response did not appear on last month’s agenda.

Kuhl was not invited to the discussion, said Commissioner Steve Stahla, because the response itself must come from the commissioners themselves. The board saw no reason for her to be present, having already provided them with information about the questionable transactions that were flagged in the audit and after action had been taken in January to adopt policies that aim to prevent the same thing from happening in the future.

His fellow commissioners agreed that they are content with their response as it stands.

Paul Stille of Leo Riley & Associates clarified that the county’s response to the audit findings is included in the final document as “auditee’s response”. As this response must come from the County Commissioners, he said, it is their decision as to what is ultimately included.

Because she was not present when the letter was written, Kuhl penned her own response and emailed it to the commissioners and Stille on February 9. Her document explains what can be done with internal controls so that the situations flagged within the audit do not arise again, she said.

Looking at the document, Commissioner Steve Stahla commented that most of the items had already been touched on in the commission’s letter of response.

“I don’t see any reason to include this twice,” he said.

Stille did recommend that the commissioners make one change to their response based on a request from the Department of Audit’s Public Funds Division. Ordinarily, said Stille, it would be the county attorney’s responsibility to review actions for compliance with the Constitution and state law and the Public Funds Division is not involved.

If a situation does come to the point where the division is tapped to participate in an investigation, said Stille, they don’t usually like to publicize that fact. On hearing this, the County Commissioners moved to delete the sentence within their letter that indicates the county will be relying on the Public Funds Division to review the audit’s findings.

The letter as it now stands will be included within the final audit as the “auditee’s response”. It details that the commissioners have passed a resolution to specify how electronic payments are handled and new procedures have been implemented for dishonored checks.

The response also states that the commissioners have asked the Attorney General’s Office to review the audit findings and investigate if requested to do so by any state or law enforcement agency.

As the discussion came to an end, Kuhl asked the commissioners to review and sign the non-disclosure agreements that she included in a letter she sent to them in December to explain in detail how the situations flagged in the audit arose. The package contained sensitive personal information about customers of her office, she said.

Commissioner Kelly Dennis responded that he will not be signing the agreement as he did not view the contents of the package. County Clerk Linda Fritz stated that she will sign the agreement, but will include a note that she did not request the information.

Kuhl asked County Attorney Joe Baron for his legal opinion on whether the commissioners should sign the agreement. His response was that they can sign it if they wish, but it’s their choice and they are not obligated to do so.