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Saline County Board votes to audit county clerk

updated: 9/9/2017 10:30 AM


SALINE COUNTY -- Saline County Board members unanimously approved conducting a forensic audit of County Clerk Kim Buchanan and her office at a special board meeting Thursday night.

The action taken is two-fold: the board voted to have a forensic audit conducted and in a separate motion to solicit bids for the audit, due to the board by Sept. 27.

"At this time, I'm not going to bring up individual things I think are wrong. We as a county board see possible misconduct with the county clerk's finances and a lack of cooperation working with other offices," board member Joe Jackson said.

However, discussion quickly turned to a variety of issues board members said they had concern with regarding the county clerk's office.

Board member Steve Karns said a recent issue has been some employees having deductions for health insurance though they were not on the county's insurance plan. He said Buchanan's office was not cooperative when he asked for some clarification of the issue.

"We have had six people who had money withheld but they did not have coverage and we had to meet with the state's attorney to resolve this issue," Karns said. "If these funds are deducted from paychecks, we need accounting of these funds. What happened to that money?"

Board member Danny Gibbs said he had been told by some working for the county that some employees, by contrast, had health insurance but did not have their portion of premiums deducted from their paychecks. He said he did not know whether that was true, but he wanted to find out if it was.

Jackson said he was concerned about a mileage claim made by Buchanan for work done during the last election that he said was excessive. He said the claim was, by his estimation, in excess of 1,000 miles of what it should have been. He said the claim did not have proper documentation.

Board member Mike McKinnies said he was concerned about statements made by individuals that Buchanan planned to give herself a raise of $5,000 from the county's automation fund. That fund is designed to pay for improvements for record-keeping and new technology within the county clerk's office. It also has been a source of contention for the county because there is a difference of opinion within the board over who controls that fund.

McKinnies also said repeated Freedom of Information Act requests regarding the mileage claim referenced by Jackson were turned down by Buchanan's office. He also said the claims committee, of which he is chairman, continues to receive a claim for legal representation from an attorney Buchanan sought out.

After other complaints were made, the board voted to proceed with a forensic audit, which is designed to examine every or nearly every transaction made in an office. A representative of KEB, the auditing firm who will be conducting the county's annual audit, said an annual audit does a random sampling of transactions, while a forensic audit tries to examine each transaction if possible. A forensic audit is often more costly than an annual audit because of the extra work involved, the representative said.

Karns said he and the board were not alleging any wrongdoing, but because of the issues cited by board members they wanted to make certain Buchanan's office was being run properly.

"We have to allay these fears," Karns said.

After the meeting, Buchanan said she is confident any audit will not find any wrongdoing on her part.

"This is a political witch-hunt, and it has been for the past 2 years," Buchanan said. "My office follows the law and it has to follow the law. Some of those complaints they made in there are exaggerations, and some simply are not true."

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