Grand County Building Dept. scandal prompts forensic accounting audit
April 1, 2014
HOT SULPHUR SPRINGS — As part of its commitment to better internal "checks and balances" in light of the building department scandal still under investigation, Grand County Commissioners have authorized a forensic accounting audit.
According to county manager Lurline Underbrink Curran, county officials began exploring the idea of an independent audit about three weeks ago. After researching consultants and drafting a scope of work, commissioners approved a contract with Alvarez & Marsal Global Forensic and Disputes Services, LLC, during its regular board meeting on Tuesday, April 1. The contract caps payment at $90,000.
"This is a big amount of money to us, (it's) very serious," Commissioner James Newberry said at the meeting.
Alvarez & Marsal is an international firm with offices throughout the U.S., including one in Denver. Commissioners expressed the importance of objectivity in selecting a consultant. County attorney Jack DiCola specifically selected the firm because they have no connections to the county and have not worked in the area before. They'll be auditing all county departments that collect money. According to DiCola, that includes just about every office.
"It's actually fairly amazing, every county department, apparently, is a source of funds as far as we can tell," DiCola said during the commissioners' meeting.
The firm is expected to begin work immediately. According to the contract, work should be completed by May 2.
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The contract specifies that the firm will complete a "financial reconstruction of the books and records of the building department, planning department, treasurer's office and accounting department since September 2001 to determine the extent of theft from the building department and involvement, if any, of the other named departments." Newberry, however, said he'd like to see records researched before 2001, or before implicated staff in the building department allegedly stopped making deposits.
"My point would be, if we were tracking pre-2001, (we might find) there was a cash amount being deposited, and then all of a sudden the cash deposit stopped being deposited or something along those lines," Newberry said.
Beyond researching the "extent of theft" from the building department, the contract directs the consults to research any activity that's not necessarily illegal, but could be considered "involvement," relating to "notice, discovery, accounting and record-keeping."
The audit will be conducted separately from the county sheriff's criminal investigation of the building department. Still, findings from the audit could be used to help with the criminal investigation, and the consultants could be called to testify in court.
Leia Larsen can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.