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4/23/2014 6:00:00 AM
Audit: Mohave County Recorder's Office misused funds
Meier defends expenditures; previous reviews didn't question spending
Carol Meier
Carol Meier

Matt Reinig
Miner reporter

KINGMAN - A state audit concluded the Mohave County Recorder's Office misused about $150,000 in collected fees last year meant for specified tech purposes.

The Auditor General report released last month shows the Recorder's Office funded $146,000 in employee salaries and $769 in travel costs from a fund state law designates is to be used only for purchasing and updating hardware and software, training employees to operate and maintain the system, or paying for equipment maintenance.

The fund, called the County Recorder's Document Storage and Retrieval Conversion and Maintenance Fund, was established in 2001 and allowed counties with less than 750,000 residents to charge a $4 fee to help fund the conversion of hardcopy documents to electronic, automated computer storage systems.

However, County Recorder Carol Meier said the majority of those $4 fees are paid by title and loan companies that mine and sell information, and constitutes $300,000 of the Recorder's Office's annual $820,500 budget.

Aside from the special fund, the Recorder's Office budget is sustained by $325,000 in voter registration fees and $195,500 budgeted by the county, recorder's office staff said Monday.

Meier said the $769 in travel reimbursements noted in the audit was paid to employees to attend system operation and maintenance training courses.

The county's most recent budget shows the $146,000 employee salaries paid through the fund in 2013 consists mostly of salary expenditures, then health care and retirement costs, and other benefits.

Financial Services Director John Timko drafted an agenda item for Monday's meeting proposing the board of supervisors take action disallowing travel and employee expenses, as stated by the Auditor General to offset those revenues.

Meier defended the expenditures Monday, saying system "maintenance" can be interpreted to mean staffing costs, such as redacting personally identifying information from the hardcopy documents being added to the electronic system.

Meier said that is necessary to combat rampant land fraud in the area, for example.

"We had a gentleman call us, upset because his property was for sale on Ebay," Meier said. "It happens all the time."

The Auditor General's Office recommended in the report that the county evaluate expenditures paid through the fund in past years, as well, to ensure that the costs charged comply with the law, and that the county reimburse all unallowable costs through its general fund.

Since the auditor general found the Recorder's Office's expenditures to be improper and inconsistent with the state program, the onus is on the county to reimburse program dollars.

Timko said travel and employee expenditures have been in place, and paid through the fund since before he served as finance director, and were never classified as misappropriations in past audits.

Timko said the county has no obligation to replenish past expenditures through the general fund, since past audits found nothing irregular about the travel and employee expenditures, and said the Auditor General's report took a more narrow interpretation.

"If any of the auditors previously had told us, we wouldn't have done that those prior years, so we're not going to go back and pay for what was looked at during prior audits," Timko said. "That would be improper. As the finance director, if those expenses had not been approved by previous auditors, they would have never been in the budget this year."

Mohave County Board of Supervisors voted to postpone any decision Monday and said they would like to have their legal staff review the matter first, which the Auditor's General report also recommended, to ensure accountability with public funds and compliance with the law.

The county has until June 30 to take corrective action, according to the audit.

"The Board of Supervisors comes back in a month, and there is a plan taking into account the recorder's concerns," said Timko.

In other county news:

The Board of Supervisors were set to give direction Monday on what to do with the decrepit Arnold Plaza building downtown, which failed to receive any takers with a minimum $65,000 bid during an auction earlier this month.

County Administrator Mike Hendrix removed that action item, and the board voted Monday instead to hold a new auction for the building, though it did not schedule a date.

The county said last week there were four interested bidders during the most recent auction who toured the property, though all failed to appear on auction day.

Two bidders called ahead in advance to say they would be unable to attend the auction, county officials said.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, April 26, 2014
Article comment by: Margie Gray

As a former employee of the Recorder's office, I can attest to blatant misuse of funds. If a witness is ever needed, call on me. Carol and crew are NOT up front all the time. When Joan McCall was the Recorder, there was never an audit ending with these findings. Sometimes the old days are better.

Posted: Thursday, April 24, 2014
Article comment by: @ Carol is Honest

You ask "who performed the audit?".
Answer, someone not on the take.
Not one of the Good Ol' Boys.

Posted: Thursday, April 24, 2014
Article comment by: Carol is honest

I would say Carol followed past practices. Past audits were clean, why a discrepancy now? My question, who performed the audit?

Posted: Thursday, April 24, 2014
Article comment by: Didn't Get Caught

Just because you didn't get caught in the past doesn't mean it was ok. If you speed down a certain road all the time and don't get stopped and one day you get caught does that mean that it is ok and you should be excused? You shouldn't need an auditor to keep you in line anyway. You should be abiding by the law all the time. How can you misinterpret salaries as equipment maintenance. We need more auditing of these people.

Posted: Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Article comment by: Ball Gag

What Benefits? Internal investigation last year....anyone remember that?

Posted: Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Article comment by: loop holes

They do these types of money shuffling all the time and claim ignorance, funny how most of the money ends up in their pockets.

Posted: Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Article comment by: V Stokes

Sorry, me me...
Thats a County Department (not a Kingman company), and they had done it in past years and no audits flagged it.

Posted: Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Article comment by: me me

Another Kingman Company misusing fees. Why Am I NOT SURPRISED!

Posted: Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Article comment by: Robert Green

The actual concept of a "budget" seems to be beyond the grasp of most elected officials as well as "most" government employees. I believe that there are at least 2 reasons for that: 1.They have never owned or operated their own business and:
2. They work in a very risk averse job where they receive high pay and high benefits i.e lots of holidays and vacation for very little production.

Posted: Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Article comment by: Rick O'Shea

You can't argue with an auditor, I find it funny how its always "the office of" or the "so and so department" that committed the crime. Find the people that are guilty and fire them, the person or persons obviously have the qualifications to work in the position right, so they should have known better. I would like to see all official departments audited.

Posted: Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Article comment by: buster brown

there is something so wrong with this county. but i guess the majority of the residents must like it. nothing like crooked cops,crooked justice system, thieving officials and over all corruption. ahhh theres no place like home.

Posted: Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Article comment by: Oh Ya

No way! I am completely shocked! Someone please explain why Mohave County continues to be a Republican dominated county again.

Posted: Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Article comment by: Why- What

If personal information is being redacted by the Recorder's Office employees as maintenance, why was the man in Carol Meire 's example finding his property for sale on Ebay? What IS being done in that office to prevent people's property from being stolen like she says happens all the time?

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