A former clerk/treasurer for the village of Stapleton has been charged with theft by deception, over $5,000, from the village’s coffers.
State Auditor Charlie Janssen’s office has also completed an attestation of the village’s finances and detailed a number of concerns about the way business was being conducted.
Amy Allen, who now works as an office clerk in the Logan County Clerk’s Office, was charged Wednesday in Logan County Court by County Attorney Colten Venteicher.
The formal complaint against Allen alleges thefts occurred between May 30, 2016, and Aug. 31, 2018, and that Allen intentionally destroyed or otherwise altered the availability of public records and used public funds for personal gain.
A report of the auditor’s attestation, or targeted examination, was published May 17 and is on the state auditor’s website, auditors.state.ne.us.
The attestation was prompted by a letter that Janssen’s office received from an unnamed “concerned citizen” on Jan. 22 about an agreement that Allen had made with the village on Jan. 7 to pay $15,000 in restitution for funds missing from the village.
Allen said that when she was approached by Village Board Chairman Bryan Rooney and Vice Chairman Dan Beckius about signing the agreement, they told her the $15,000 was to cover the missing money, along with auditing and attorney fees. The $15,000 was to be paid in monthly installments of $200. In return, the village promised that it would “seek no other funds or amount of money” from her.
Allen said the settlement document was drawn up by Village Attorney Mike Borders. It was signed by Allen and Rooney.
Telephone messages left for Borders and Rooney were not returned.
The agreement between Allen and the village was not itemized, and Allen told The Telegraph she does not know how much she actually took from the village.
According to the auditor’s report, Allen resigned from her position with the village in August 2018. In September, it was discovered that utility payments received from some customers had been applied to different customers’ accounts. The report does not state who discovered the discrepancies.
During October and November, the village’s certified public accountant, Milissa Kramer of MJK CPA PC, “conducted an analysis to determine how much money appeared to have been misappropriated,” according to the report. On Nov. 19, Kramer presented a summary of her findings to the Village Board.
On Nov. 21, the village asked the State Auditor’s Office to waive requirements for its annual audit. That is a common request from villages and other small government bodies, according to Craig Kubicek, a certified public accountant and certified fraud examiner who was one of four auditor’s office staff members who conducted the attestation of the village records.
A public entity granted a waiver is still required to submit some records but avoids the expense of a full audit. But in asking for the waiver, the village did not notify the auditor’s office of the alleged fraud, according to the report. The waiver request was ultimately denied.
After receiving the anonymous letter, the auditor’s office requested and received a copy of the agreement between the village and Allen, as well as the summary prepared by Kramer. The auditor’s office sent copies of both to the Logan County attorney.
On March 13, the auditor’s office notified the Stapleton Village Board that it would do the attestation.
On March 28, the Nebraska State Patrol interviewed Allen, who admitted taking cash from the village’s trash, water and dog licensing accounts, according to the auditor’s report. A copy of her handwritten statement is shown in the report. It includes the following: “I made several attempts to pay back the money I took so I could right my wrong but did not get enough paid back.”
On April 24-25, members of the auditor’s staff traveled to Stapleton and obtained financial documents and other supporting records for the examination. The attestation covers the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2018, but includes documentation from other time periods.
The auditor’s report notes irregularities dating back at least several years.
QuickBooks transactions back to September 2013 were inspected, and the auditor’s staff found “hundreds of deleted invoices for customers who paid cash to the village, which totaled over $38,000.”
But Kramer said that number does not necessarily reflect the amount of money that was misappropriated, noting that some of the invoices were deleted “for legitimate reasons.”
“Based on records prior to and after the time period in question, it is evident that the village does not receive near as much cash as what the deleted invoice summary presents,” Kramer said.
The report recommended that the village of Stapleton:
» Implement procedures “to prevent one person from being in a position both to perpetrate and to conceal financial errors or irregularities.”
» Work with the proper authorities to respond to alleged wrongdoing.
» Implement procedures to recover or account for any missing funds.
» File a claim with the insurance carrier for Allen’s performance bond.
The report includes the village’s response: “We agree that fraud has occurred which violates many state statutes. As soon as the fraud was discovered action was taken to determine the extent of the loss and to seek advice from an attorney. We have already implemented many new procedures that will help circumvent any future issues.”
The report identified a number of concerns that Kramer called “minor compliance issues that will be addressed by the board and personnel to ensure proper compliance in the future.”
They included issues with the control environment relating to village funds. The report noted lack of segregation of duties, untimely depositing of checks, absence of receipts for all money received, failure to endorse checks properly upon receipt, failure of the current clerk to countersign checks (contrary to state statute) and lack of “known fixed asset policy and inventory list.” Some claims received by the village office had been paid prior to or without Village Board approval.
Issues related to payroll included lack of some personnel files, missing federal W-4 or I-9 verifications for employees, and employee salaries not in agreement with Village Board resolutions. In addition, although employees were not being required to pay utility bills, those amounts were not being taxed as fringe benefits.
The report said corrections needed to be made to ensure that village ordinances were consistent with current utility rates and to ensure that all customers were properly billed for services.