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Board approves tow fund examination

Published: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 1:15 a.m. CST

It’s official: The Ogle County Sheriff’s tow fund will get a full forensic examination.

By a unanimous vote Tuesday, the County Board approved engaging the forensic services of Sikich LLP, of Naperville, to examine tow fund expenditures and revenues since it was implemented in 2011.

Sikich is the same firm that does the county’s regular annual audits.

The fee for the initial investigation is $7,500 plus out-of-pocket expenses. If fraud is uncovered during the audit, the cost will increase to as much as $300 per hour for the investigators’ services.

In their contract with the county, Sikich officials specified that the procedure should be called a forensic “examination,” rather than a forensic “audit.”

Sheriff Michael Harn came under fire in the last several months over expenditures from the tow fund, which included purchasing 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.

Last January, Board member Richard Petrizzo made a motion for a forensic examination of the tow fund, as well as the sheriff’s credit card expenditures.

However, Board Chairman Kim 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.

Gouker called for a forensic examination of the tow fund at the April 15 meeting.

At that same 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 are 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 be handled by the Ogle County treasurer’s office, rather than the sheriff, as in the past.

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

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