Nebraska State Auditor Charlie Janssen recently issued a report detailing serious recordkeeping and financial reconciliation issues in the Sarpy County Treasurer’s Office.
The Sarpy County Board of Commissioners shares the auditor’s concerns detailed in the report and supports further state review of the Treasurer’s Office.
“While the auditor’s assessment did not report any loss of funds, it did call into question the Treasurer’s accounting practices and unwillingness to provide appropriate documentation, and we find that unacceptable,” said Sarpy County Board Chairman Don Kelly. “As elected officials, our primary imperative is to be a good steward of the public’s money. That includes being able to document every investment, account and receipt to ensure taxpayer money is protected.”
The Treasurer’s Office is an independent county office lead by an elected official, Sarpy County Treasurer Brian Zuger. His office’s responsibilities include collecting property taxes and vehicle registration fees as well as managing the county’s investments. The state auditor’s report focuses largely on variances found among the Treasurer’s computer systems used to record financial information.
The Sarpy County Board has offered to assist the Treasurer’s office on a number of occasions in varying capacities.
“The Treasurer has rejected or ignored nearly every effort made to assist his office, and continually states that ‘the County Board of Commissioners has no authority to encroach on my duties,’” Kelly said. “The County Board’s focus remains on ensuring the accuracy of the Treasurer’s records, so the Board recently hired a law firm to conduct an independent investigation of the office in order to determine the issues and take appropriate action to correct them.”
The Treasurer’s Office is a separate and autonomous office from the Sarpy County Fiscal & Budget Office. The County Board oversees and has direct authority over the Fiscal & Budget Office. The Fiscal & Budget Office is responsible for the county’s yearly budget and financial reporting, including yearly audits by an outside firm. The Treasurer’s Office is operated by the County Treasurer, who is elected by the public to the position. The County Board is limited in the authority it has over the Treasurer’s Office and only has the legal authority to take specific limited actions that are determined by the detailed issues at hand.
“We want to be clear that the Auditor’s report does not criticize our Fiscal & Budget team, which has a strong set of policies and procedures in place to make sure the county is on sound financial footing while being fiscally responsible for our residents. We create and follow a detailed budget, fully in compliance with state statutes and regulations from the Auditor of Public Accounts. We maintain a healthy cash reserve and are proud of our Aaa bond rating, the highest rating issued by Moody’s,” Kelly said.
Based on his team’s initial findings, State Auditor Janssen’s office will conduct an attestation of all funds handled by the Treasurer’s Office from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2020. An attestation is a review of all financial data to verify its accuracy.
“The Board fully supports the auditor’s decision to complete an attestation of the Treasurer’s Office, and we will assist them any way we can throughout the process while also conducting an independent investigation to determine the detailed issues and the appropriate action,” Kelly said.