Auditor chides Town of Frankford for lax procedures

Tom Wagner

Tom Wagner

DOVER — While not criminal in nature, a State of Delaware audit determined that former Town of Frankford officials might have conducted “inappropriate activity” that was not detected, particularly when dealing with cash transactions.

According to the 16-page report issued Monday, ex-Town Clerk Terry Truitt and Police Chief Bill Dudley were overpaid $13,321.38 for 457.25 hours in overtime that was not allowed by town policy.

“In addition, we found several instances where the former town clerk would carry forward overtime hours worked in excess of 10 hours in one week, despite the 10 hour cap by the town council.

“While these instances were not discussed per the council meeting minutes, council members signed her payroll checks, thereby approving the practice.”

While the town paid $20,253.88 for fuel on four separate Pep-Up cards from fiscal years 2014-2016, the audit showed that “Town officials were unable to confirm which Town employees were issued fuel cards.

“In addition, they were unable to provide any sort of policy or guidelines which would have governed the use of the cards.”

Lacking documentation

Financial transactions were made without formal policies and procedures, according to the auditor and “This included the process for collecting payments from town residents for utility and property tax bills.

“The town failed to issue receipts and did not maintain adequate supporting documentation for deposits during the period of review …”

Thus, the auditor could not track cash deposits through the town’s records into a bank account, officials said.

Without adequate bookkeeping, the auditor said, bank deposits for the former town clerk’s water and tax billings could not be documented.

A Frankford resident provided records showing he had unknowingly paid property taxes to the town and a mortgage company for several fiscal years; deposited cash payments to the town — $538.75 each fiscal year — could not be documented, the report stated.

Town park rentals were inconsistently processed several times, the audit said, with methods of payment and bank deposits not identified, and waiver of fees not explained.

Town moving forward

In a letter to State Auditor Tom Wagner on July 15, Frankford Town Council acknowledged past flaws and implemented improvements moving forward.

Also, town council believed a “more comprehensive inspection dating back to 2008 would be more appropriate” due to the town clerk and an ongoing investigation and complaints filed then.

The auditor responded that it “did not find it prudent to launch a 13-year investigation with no solid evidence of fraud.” The auditor had recommended changes to Frankford’s operations in 2008 as well.

Town council responds

Town council outlined changes to its operations in the past nine months, including an employee manual that workers must sign, assigning council members specific oversight for department functions, review of charters and ordinances, new payroll procedure with an outside vendor providing service, and reconciliation and review of all receipts, monitoring overtime hours, vacation and sick pay, and new town park rental guidelines.

Town councilman Greg Welch maintained the members signed overpaid checks due to “the employee that was issuing the payroll misrepresented the policy and our town’s accountant’s approval of these overpayments.”

Regarding Ms. Truitt’s marriage to former town council president and member Jesse Truitt, the auditor reported that “While we understand [the Truitts were married] creating a conflict of interest, we found no evidence that other council members were ‘shut out of the decision making process’ since the meeting minutes demonstrated that they attended council meetings and voted on various topics.

“Regardless, council members should not approve or sign checks for transactions they do not approve or understand, or without proper supporting documentation.”

Town council contacted the auditor’s office after Ms. Truitt resigned as clerk in September 2015, the report stated.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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