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Coloma Township official vows to pay fines

Residents vote for forensic audit

Debra Burke, superivisor of Coloma Township
Debra Burke, superivisor of Coloma Township

ROCK FALLS – Coloma Township Supervisor Debra Burke on Tuesday promised to pay $3,200 in fines that the township owes because it failed to turn in financial reports to the state for 4 years.

She has until April 15 to pay.

A few months ago, the state levied more than $13,000 in fines for the lack of reports, which are posted on the state comptroller’s site. Over the winter, Burke got the reports done.

Coloma then requested a reduction in fines. Last month, the state cut them to $3,200.

On Tuesday night, residents discussed Coloma’s financial problems at the township’s annual meeting, in which constituents can vote on issues. 

About 30 attended, many more than previous years, likely because of recent controversies. Only six showed up in 2013.

In a voice vote, the residents decided to have the township launch a forensic audit within 3 months, examining 5 years of finances. Such an audit is more in-depth than the conventional one.

Several asked why accounting firm Wipfli started the township’s conventional audit a year ago and has yet to finish it. 

“At this point, we don’t know when the audit will be completed,” said Trustee Mary Richardson, who presided over the meeting. “They are having issues with trial balances.”

The last audit was done in 1994. Residents said one should be done every 4 years, at least.

“I would like to see an audit done every year,” said Trustee Gene Jacoby, who joined the township board more than 35 years ago.

Jacoby was asked why the trustees did nothing for years to address the failure to conduct audits and submit required reports.

“We were told everything was fine, that there was nothing to worry about, and that everything was on schedule,” he said.

Walter “Butch” Neal, a trustee appointed late last year, said he was as upset as others in the audience.

“When someone tells me that everthing is OK, that makes me want [an audit] more,” Neal said.

Burke seemed to blame Wipfli for the audit taking so long.

“They had every bill, every check, every check statement, every check duplicate 6 months ago. Then they came back to say we need you to compile information in a different way. Now, they are asking us again to complete it in a different way,” she said.

Burke’s term ends in 2017.

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