August 31, 2015

Sheriff’s department management cashed in on OT funded by DHS

An audit of Department of Homeland Security funds used for a border program showed that some grant money went to funding overtime for upper management in the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s office.

Money flying_sidewaysThe audit of the use of funds by the sheriff’s office was conducted after a new sheriff was elected and “became aware of the issues.”

The office of State Auditor Tim Keller released the forensic auditor’s report on Monday morning. The full report on the findings of the forensic audit is available at the bottom of this post.

“The use of public funds along our border should be transparent and accounted for no differently than all other tax dollars that are spent in our state,” Keller said in a statement. “We appreciate the Sheriff’s office for initiating the investigation and for their openness to improve financial practices.”

At issue were federal funds from the Operation Stonegarden Grant Program. The funds analyzed by the audit came from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in fiscal years 2012 and 2013 to help with border-related law enforcement activities.

“The auditors found that there were a lack of internal controls that allowed Lieutenants, Captains and Majors to assign and participate in overtime projects that resulted in a large amount of salary resources, about 30 percent, being consumed by upper management,” a letter from Special Investigations Supervisor Kevin Sourisseau announcing the results said. “The actions were consistent with the Sheriff’s policy in place at the time, but fell short of best practices and created an opportunity for abuse.”

The report shows that four salaried management positions cashed in big on overtime over the two years: $71,100 in 2013 in addition to $61,400 in 2012. An hourly position received $15,800 in 2013 in addition to $18,500 in 2012. Overtime was paid at time-and-a-half.

The overtime for salaried management “was approximately 41% of their annual salary expense” according to the forensic auditor’s report.

The audit found there was “opportunity to submit false claims to the Federal Government for reimbursement of work not performed.”

The audit recommended that policies be put into place to make sure that regular sheriff’s office duties did not mix with Operation Stonegarden duties and said that any overtime should be approved by a supervisor.

Kubiak Melton & Associates, LLC conducted the audit, which looked at $528,000 in salary expenditures for participation in the program and searched for any misuse of the funds and to examine the internal controls and to correct any problems found within the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s office.

The exit conference to tell the sheriff’s office about the findings took place on June 8 of this year.

Doña Ana County Sheriff's office Operation Stonegarden Audit