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No audit for 2 decades in Coloma Township

Trustee: If we don’t follow through, it may not get done

ROCK FALLS – More than a quarter of Rock Falls’ population wasn’t even born the last time Coloma Township conducted an audit.

Under state law, townships are required to have a certified public accountant do an audit every 4 years, within 6 months of the end of a supervisor’s term. The last Coloma audit was in 1994.

Jerry Crabtree, associate director for the Township Officials of Illinois, said he has never heard of a case in which a township waited two decades to do an audit. Occasionally, he said, a township has missed one 4-year audit.

“If they don’t do it every 4 years, they are called out by voters,” Crabtree said. “A lot of townships do it every year – for transparency.”

Sterling Township is one of them.

During questioning at the township’s annual meeting Tuesday, Supervisor Debra Burke, at the Coloma Township’s helm since 1981, said the last audit was in 1994.

Crabtree doubted whether it could have been that long.

“That seems extreme,” he said.

Townships, Crabtree said, must turn in their audits to the county clerk.

Contacted last week, Whiteside County Clerk Dana Nelson noted that county clerks are required to keep such records for only 7 years. But she has documents going back a decade. Her records include no audits from Coloma, she said.

For a year, Wipfli, an accounting firm with an office in Sterling, has been working on Coloma Township’s audit. Residents are wondering why it’s taking so long to get it done.

“They can’t do it because they don’t have the figures,” township Trustee Walter “Butch” Neal said. “We don’t have the paperwork. Deb can’t find the paperwork.”

At Tuesday’s annual meeting, residents who were present voted to have the township conduct a more expensive, in-depth examination of the finances, known as a forensic audit. It would start within 90 days and cover 5 years of finances, the residents decided.

“I agree with the forensic audit. I’m not saying anyone is taking anything, but we need to find out,” Neal said. “[Burke] wasn’t doing what she was supposed to be doing, and no one was pushing her. It’s our job to check to make sure she gets things done.”

A few months ago, the state comptroller’s office levied more than $13,000 in fines because the township failed to submit a financial report for 4 years.

Burke got the reports done this winter, so the township asked for a reduction or elimination of fines. The state reduced them to $3,200.

Burke has promised to personally pay the fines. The deadline to pay is Tuesday, officials said.

The township’s trustees asked that Burke pay the money to Coloma, so the township could send it to the state.

“It’s terrible that we have to question her about everything,” Trustee Peggy McFadden said, “but if we don’t follow through, it may not get done.”

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