County board per diems will be audited : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|County board per diems will be audited |
|by Matt Schury|
Kendall County State's Attorney Eric Weis said he will have the accounting firm of Dennis E. Czurylo and Associates LLC of Palos Heights perform a forensic audit of the County Board member's per diem vouchers.
Weis told the County Board Tuesday morning he intends to have Czurylo and his firm look over three and a half years of per diem voucher information and related paperwork for all board members from December 2008 to June 1, 2012.
That timeframe made sense, Weis said, because it was when the current board was seated.
County Board member's are allowed to claim an $85 per diem for attending board and committee meetings to which they are assigned. The elected officials are on the honor system when it comes to turning vouchers in to the treasurer's office to be paid for meetings they attend.
Weis explained that the audit would be completed within a 90-day window after which the firm would hand over its findings to Weis and he would take action from there.
He estimated the cost for the audit to be $2,000 to $5,000, based on preliminary conversations between him, Czurylo and County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Scott Koster.
"I'm not advocating spending more money than we have to, but I think it is a necessary expenditure based on the situation at hand," Weis said.
Weis told the board that Czurylo was a retired IRS special agent who was in charge of the Greylord investigation on judicial corruption in Cook County.
"If you want to know if he can do investigations, you just answered your own question," Weis said.
Czurylo's LinkedIn page indicates he was a special agent with the U.S. Treasury Department from August 1966 to September 2001 and conducted complex financial investigations and reconstructions.
Weis said he told Czurylo that he was looking for roughly a three-year audit of the 10 board members per diems. He also said he told him how vouchers are submitted and a number of documents would need to be reviewed for each meeting-the minutes, vouchers submitted, payroll information and rules of order and state statutes.
'Important to clarify'
Most County Board members voiced support for the audit, including Dan Koukol who had been accused by board members of inappropriately claiming per diems for meetings.
"I would encourage this to get going," Koukol said. "I would say go forward."
Koukol added that he wanted to have the audit to go further and review per diems from the last eight years.
Board member Bob Davidson added that he wanted the audit to extend out four years.
However, Weis noted that there would be a larger cost the more years they have the auditor review.
Board member Suzanne Petrella said she thought the audit was important.
"This is wonderful, I think it's important for us to clarify," Petrella said. "It's always been on (our) honor but I think this would be great moving forward."
Davidson wanted to know if the County Board would get a vote on the audit.
"We don't have a say whether this audit is going to happen or not?" Davidson asked.
Weis responded that he would take input from the board but the decision to hire the auditor was his to make. The board would be responsible for approving the bill for the audit.
"If you don't approve the expenditure then I have to decide what is the next course of action and I don't usually comment on investigations other than to say I'd have to look at that with the sheriff's office and decide what if anything we can do," Weis said.
"I will submit a bill when we are done and if you don't pay it... I don't know what we'll do. We'll jump off that bridge when we get there," Weis said. "This is my recommendation to you, you can point all the fingers at me. If someone says, 'Why did you spend the money?'-I'm recommending that it be done."
Board Chairman John Purcell noted that he wanted the board to discuss the issue so that everyone knew the process and what direction Weis was going.
"We had a discussion so we understood what the process is and what Eric's looking for and how it's going to affect staff," Purcell said.
He contended at the June 5 County Board meeting that he didn't think a forensic audit would be necessary.
Earlier this year County Board member Anne Vickery and county resident Todd Milliron each filed complaint's with Weis' office regarding the handling of the per diem payments by some County Board members. Vickery has particularly blasted Koukol for what she said were over 40 meetings for which he inappropriately claimed per diems. Earlier this month Purcell said he found only three meetings that he wanted Koukol to credit back to the county.
Weis said the county would give the firm all the information and they would process it in a large spreadsheet then determine what was or wasn't authorized. The auditor then brings back findings and recommendations. The 90-day window would begin from the time they receive all of the information and paperwork, Weis added.
Board member Jessie Hafenrichter said that she prefer that Weis look into the per diems himself and didn't feel an outside auditor would be needed.
"I just about assume we all chip in and payoff whatever it is somebody thinks is missing and be done with it," Hafenrichter said.
"Well, I don't think that really resolves any issue," Purcell said.
Petrella said she believed the auditor should be hired so there is not a conflict of interest.
"You (Weis) are responsible for representing the board and I'm not sure if that would be a conflict," she said.
"I think everybody is on their toes now because the Finance Committee is examining every voucher and checking them now and maybe we are at fault for not checking them in the past," Hafenrichter said.
However, she acknowledged it was ultimately up to Weis.
"Eric (Weis) is the State's Attorney I think he should do what he thinks is the right thing to do and present us with the bill," Hafenrichter said.
Board member Jeff Wehrli voiced concern with the cost but felt the audit should be done to show accountability.
"I think that's what we are trying to do, is get accountability back to the taxpayers," Wehrli said.
Weis responded that he would have a better idea of what the cost will be once he starts working with the firm and they know the scope of what they will be reviewing.
Weis also told the board they should continue to have their independent auditor, Tawnya Mack and Associates, perform an audit of the voucher system going forward as part of the county's annual audit.
"It's something that should be done (annually)," Weis said.