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Court votes for forensic audit

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By Thomas Barr

 SHEPHERDSVILLE -- The financial affairs of Bullitt County government will soon undergo a forensic audit.

The 3-2 decision by Bullitt Fiscal Court comes after it was learned that the county attorney's office had received overpayments for the past year.

Bullitt County attorney Monica Robinson reported that on Monday she learned that her personal salary account had been overpaid by Bullitt Fiscal Court and no one caught the mistake.

Robinson wrote a check for over $56,000 to county government; however, if the explanation given on Tuesday holds true, she actually was overpaid by around $40,000.

No matter the amount, county judge Melanie Roberts and magistrates Ruthie Ashbaugh and Robert Hunt voted to have a forensic audit done on all county accounts. Magistrates Joe Laswell and John Bradshaw were opposed.

Robinson said an immediate response was needed on her part as soon as the matter was discovered.

Under the state statutes, the county pays a certain amount toward Robinson's salary.

In the county's budget, that would be $44,138 annually.

However, there are other line items paid by the county.

There is $77,900 paid to the office for assistant county attorneys, another $61,880 for office staff and $76,619 for fringe benefits.

Prior to the beginning of the 2012-13 fiscal year, Robinson said the payments were correct.

However, for some reason, changes occurred and no one on fiscal court caught the error.

A concern for Robinson was that if anyone from the public viewed the monthly appropriation condition report, it would show as of June 12, she was personally paid $81,203.12. She requested that report be changed to accurately reflect the salary she was due.

With fringe benefits, her annual salary for 2013-14 should be $55,852.23.

She made a request to fiscal court to do several things.

First, she wanted the record to show that she did refund the county $56,143.54 and that there was some assurance that her retirement contribution had been made.

Second, she requested a monthly copy of the appropriation condition report.

While there was no legal reason to refund the money, Robinson said it was her obligation to do so once the error was detected.

With a second major error in the past two years, Robinson said as legal adviser to the county, she couldn't encourage the court to make any expenditures without having the forsenic audit done.

"It's not going to be cheap," warned Robinson.

Roberts said she has begged the court since 2007 to hire a finance officer.

But Robinson said the fiscal court members -- which includes Roberts and the four magistrates -- are responsible for making sure the payments are correct, said Robinson.

"I have concerns," said Robinson. "I am trying to do my job."

If her office received overpayments, Robinson wondered if others were receiving the same treatment.

While the court members approved both the audit, the changing of the appropriations report and the requirement that Robinson receive a copy each month, questions remained.

Bradshaw inquired whether anyone contacted the county treasurer, Kenann Sharp, for any explanations to the problem.

Robinson said she spoke with a couple of magistrates but it is there job to raise questions.

Bradshaw said he thinks the facts will show that checks were sent in the amount of $81,000 to Robinson. But he felt there was an explanation if anyone would ask.

But Robinson said Sharp could also question things she believes may be wrong.

According to Sharp, the only thing she does is handle payroll. Her records show that she paid Robinson a total of $44,138.64. The overpayment was made through line items keyed in by the county judge's office and some of those figures were coded to the salary account.

She said that the overpayment to Robinson's office appeared to be only $40,459 since fringe benefits were not added.

With the start of a new fiscal year, Sharp was directed to contact the state Department of Local Government to see how records could be amended.

Bradshaw said Robinson would be due a refund of around $16,000.

"I agree it should have been caught before," said Bradshaw.

However, he said the treasurer should have been contacted prior to the meeting and the matter resolved outside of a fiscal court meeting.

He applauded the county attorney for catching the mistake but also wondered why no one in Robinson's office caught the overpayments until the end of the fiscal year. She countered by saying she wished she double-checked earlier but that it was the duty of fiscal court to also double check the figures before approving the documents each month.

His other concern is the money which is going to be spent on a forensic audit when the solution appears to be very simple.

The error seems to be a simple coding that is not handled by the county treasurer. 

"You're going to pay for it dearly," Bradshaw  said of having the audit done.