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Coloma Township audit might come soon

Trustee: Supervisor more cooperative

Published: Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 12:02 p.m. CDT

ROCK FALLS – Most of the key players in Coloma Township have weighed in on the township’s financial troubles, with one major exception – the auditors.

For months, Milwaukee-based Wipfli has been working on the audit, but township officials say the lack of documentation has hampered the firm.

Wipfli, with an office in Sterling, hasn’t returned calls for comment, but Coloma Trustee Peggy McFadden said officials received word that Wipfli will finish the audit soon. 

Coloma’s supervisor, Debra Burke, met the firm’s Dec. 20 deadline to turn in the township’s revenue numbers and other information so Wipfli could do its audit work before tax season.

Over the past couple of months, Burke has given the state comptroller’s office the financial reports from the past 4 years, which are on the agency’s website. The township hadn’t submitted one since 2009, although it’s required by law to do so every year.

Burke also has been late in publishing financial statements. At one point, Whiteside County withheld more than $400,000 in property tax payments from Coloma because of the late statements. 

During meetings in November and December, trustees dressed down Burke for her failure to turn in reports. They required that all mail and phone calls be logged in by a township employee, claiming that Burke was keeping information from the board.

McFadden, who has been vocal in her criticism of Burke, said the supervisor has recently become more cooperative with trustees, answering questions from the board. 

The state comptroller’s office levied the $13,000 in fines because of the late financial reports and two missing audits from the mid-1990s.

Burke has said she can’t find the old audits. The township needs to send the state township meeting minutes that acknowledge the audits are missing, McFadden said. 

With such documentation, she said, the township hopes that the state will wipe away the fines. 

Brad Hahn, a spokesman with the state comptroller’s office, said his agency had received a request from the township to reduce or eliminate the fines.

“Our philosophy is to work with communities to bring them into compliance, so we can avoid the fines,” he said. “We want to make sure taxpayers have access to the information.”

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