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Audit of tow fund approved in Ogle County

Board chairman: ‘They will be looking at everything’

Published: Wednesday, May 14, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

OREGON – The Ogle County Sheriff’s Tow Fund is one step closer to being completely scrutinized.

The county’s Executive Committee voted Tuesday to approve hiring Sikich LLP of Naperville to conduct a forensic audit of the controversial tow fund from 2012 through the present.

The board is expected to vote on the measure at its May 20 meeting.

Board chairman Kim Gouker said the fee for the initial investigation is $7,500. If fraud is uncovered during the audit, the costs will increase.

The initial investigation will document procedures used in the tow fund since it was implemented in 2011 and identify any abuses.

“As I understand this, they won’t be looking at anything in particular. They will be looking at everything,” Gouker said. “One of the things we get out of this study is a reorganization of this fund.”

Ogle County Sheriff Michael Harn came under fire in the last several months over expenditures from the tow fund, including the purchase of a new vehicle, flowers for Secretary’s Day, a tent at the county fair, and $4,000 for the department’s Facebook page to be managed.

In what seems to be a reversal of his previous stance, Gouker called for the forensic audit at last month’s board meeting.

Board member Richard Petrizzo made a motion for a forensic audit of the tow fund, as well as the sheriff’s credit card expenditures at the board’s Jan. 21 meeting.

However, Gouker said the matter could not be voted on then because it was not on the agenda.

Petrizzo’s subsequent efforts to have the matter placed on the agenda were unsuccessful.

In February, the board diminished the sheriff’s control over the tow fund by limiting how it could be spent and requiring the approval of expenditures by the county committee that oversees the sheriff’s budget.

Harn was defeated in the March 18 primary election in his bid for the Republican Party nomination for sheriff by Brian VanVickle, a Rochelle police officer.

At its April 15 meeting, the county board approved a resolution establishing the tow fund.

Gouker said that, although the board approved implementing administrative tow fees in 2011, the ordinance governing that did not actually establish the Tow Fund.

The new resolution mandated that tow fund deposits be limited to only administrative fees collected when a vehicle is towed, impounded, or seized during a criminal investigation.

It further requires that the tow fund will be handled by the Ogle County treasurer’s office, rather than the sheriff.

Treasurer John Coffman said the Tow Fund was turned over to his office April 15 when received a check for $51,932.07 from the sheriff’s department.

Gouker said Tuesday that the forensic audit will verify that the amount of the check was correct.

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