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Internal audit in Ogle County seeks missing money

Sheriff says process could take 'a couple months'

OREGON – The Ogle County Sheriff’s Department is conducting an internal audit into the nearly $11,000 a forensic auditor could not account for in the county’s administrative tow fund while it was controlled by former Sheriff Michael Harn.

The audit will likely take “a couple months,” said current Sheriff Brian VanVickle, who was sworn in on Dec. 1.

“We’ve made progress,” he said. “But obviously, there’s a lot of info to go through.”

The process is taking longer than most would like, VanVickle said, because there are “hoops you have to jump through” for the department to obtain records or re-create records it needs.

When VanVickle took office, the files were gone from computers that Harn and his executive assistant had used.

In October, Sikich, a Naperville-based accounting and consulting company, presented the results of its forensic audit to the County Board. The company was hired in April, several months after many board members, including Chairman Kim Gouker, had opposed an in-depth examination of the records.

The audit found that $10,754 was unaccounted for, about $61,000 in fees had not gone into the county’s general fund where they belonged, and a complete breakdown on internal controls.

In December 2013, Sauk Valley Media reported that funds from the tow fund had been used by Harn to pay for a tent for the county fair, flowers for Secretary’s Day, and a $4,000 management fee for the department’s Facebook page, in addition to vehicle purchases and repairs.

The fund was established in 2011 by county ordinance, which gave the sheriff’s department the ability to charge a $350 fee when it had vehicles towed.

When the ordinance was passed, the county didn’t put limits on what could be deposited into the bank account, and officials later said restrictions on expenses had been set up too loosely. The sheriff had been given complete discretion on spending the money.

In the fund’s first 2 years of existence, about $210,000 was deposited, with one third – $70,000 – coming from sources other than administrative tow fees.

The forensic audit also recommended better financial control of the tow fund, many of which have since been implemented by the county and the sheriff’s department.

In April, the county transferred control of the fund from the sheriff’s department to the treasurer’s office, where most county funds are handled.

While Gouker said he isn’t directly involved with the review, which he said extends to all of the documents in the department, he gets periodic updates from VanVickle, but no significant progress regarding the unaccounted for money had been made.

“I feel very comfortable with where we’re going,” Gouker said. “It took a few years to get to this point. ... It’s just not going to get cleaned up overnight.”

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