State cites sheriff for party

Published 12:05 am Thursday, January 10, 2013

Covington County Sheriff Dennis Meeks was called out in a recent audit for mishandlings in his pistol permit fund and the lack of proper record keeping in other bank accounts and equipment inventory.

The audit, which was released Friday by the state department of public accounts, covered transactions from June 1, 2010, through Feb. 29, 2012. It outlined four findings. The first relates to bank accounts not being reconciled in accordance with minimum accounting requirements for a five-month period; while the second relates to adequate controls not being in place over pistol permit sales. The third relates to an equipment inventory list not being maintained as required by the minimum accounting requirements, and the fourth relates to expenditures from pistol permit fees for items not serving as law enforcement purpose.

Repeated attempts to reach the state’s chief auditor for clarification on the nature and cost of the expenditures were unsuccessful.

At $20 per permit, the sheriff’s office collects an average of $74,450 per year in fees. In 2012, 4,147 permits were issued, while 3,700 were issued in 2011.

Meeks said Wednesday the funds were used for employee benefit, but that he couldn’t recall the total dollar amount.

“It was used for things that you would have thought were law enforcement related, but the auditor said they weren’t,” Meeks said. “Examples include a retirement reception for an employee, and we purchased a pistol for him for his retirement. The auditors said that wasn’t allowed.

“We also bought some years of service plaques to give out, but those weren’t allowed either,” he said.

Meeks said a now-fixed computer issue was responsible for problems with duplicate permit issuances and that steps have been taken to rectify the other audit findings.

Specific findings included:

• the inmate trust fund account and the law enforcement account were not properly reconciled for some months, specifically for the months of October 2011 through February 2012. Additionally, the analysis of the balances on hand submitted to the auditor’s office was not prepared by the Office of Sheriff;

• lack of adequate controls to account for pistol permit sales. Specific weaknesses noted were that duplicate permits numbers can be issued multiple times; numbers can be skipped or omitted or issued out of sequence; voided permit numbers are not identified or accounted for in the system; and, the system does not identify the operator/user;

• no listing of departmental equipment was on hand, nor was a physical inventory performed on department equipment during the time period; and,

• expenditures authorized from pistol permit fee proceeds that were determined not to be for law enforcement purposes. These amounts, which were not detailed in the report, were said to have been repaid at the conclusion of the examination.