By Richard Van Winkle, News of Mill Creek.
Representatives of the Washington State Auditor’s Office conducted an audit entrance conference at the October 8, 2019, Mill Creek City Council meeting. The purpose of the entrance conference was to inform city leaders and city staff of the scope of this year’s audits.
Although entrance conferences like this are usually conducted in private meetings during business hours with city staff and minimal city council attendance, City Manager Michael Ciaravino wanted to bring more transparency to the process and to maximize city council involvement.
With city council concurrence, Ciaravino rescheduled the entrance conference to Tuesday’s public city council meeting from the original Wednesday, October 9th, private meeting.
At the October 8th meeting State Audit Lead Sarrah Superville explained they will perform two different audits for fiscal years 2017 and 2018.
- The Accountability Audit will “examine the management, use and safeguarding of public resources to ensure there is protection from misuse and misappropriation.”
- The Financial Statement Audit “will provide an opinion on whether your financial statements are presented fairly, in all material respects, in accordance with the applicable reporting framework.”
The Washington State Auditor’s Office audits more than 3,000 local governments in order to assess how public resources are managed and to ensure public funds are not misused.
Reports are issued at the end of all audits and exit conferences are conducted to communicate the results to governing bodies.
If the audit goes well the reports don’t address Findings, which for example may indicate significant internal control deficiencies or misappropriation.
Management Letters communicate issues that are less significant than Findings, but are considered “important enough to communicate to the governing body.”
The Mill Creek City Council hasn’t received good audit reports for the past two years.
The first Management Letter reported “a deficiency in the City’s internal controls over the preparation and review of the financial statements.”
The second Management Letter reported seven discrepancies in the Police Department described as “control weaknesses.”
In 2018, the Auditor’s Office issued the more significant Finding that “The City lacked adequate internal controls and monitoring over credit card disbursements, placing public resources at risk of loss or misappropriation.”
City Manager Rebecca Polizzotto was fired later in the year, partially as a result of this Finding because it showed that about $1,000 of charges that Polizzotto made on her city credit card in 2017 were without itemized receipts.
According to the June 21st report, a detailed review showed some of these charges were for “alcohol and meals where the public purpose could not be determined.”
The 2018 audits should be completed within the next few months.