County audit report released

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

More than $19,000 in 2007 Curry County Fair revenues are missing, according to County Manager Lance Pyle.

A state auditor’s report released Friday indicated accounting discrepancies in three areas: Startup cash, a motocross event and gate receipts.

The report cited poor accounting procedures and policies regarding handling of money that contributed to the discrepancies.

“This is very troubling to the county, and we will do everything possible to prevent this from happening in the future,” Pyle said.

County officials discovered in December missing funds from last year’s county fair. The county asked the state police and the state auditor to handle the investigation in January after more money was discovered unaccounted for.

The county received the auditor’s report April 16, and discussed it in a closed session Friday.

“We believe now we have some areas of concern as far as procedure,” County Commission Chairman Albin Smith said.

Pyle said the county will try to get back the missing money.

New Mexico Association of Counties Risk Assessor and General Counsel Steve Kopelman said the county filed a claim for the missing funds.

He said the association, which is the county’s insurer, will investigate the audit to determine if the money is stolen.

“That’s ultimately what it’ll come down to,” Kopelman said.

District Attorney Matt Chandler said his office received a copy of the report late Friday.

“From the beginning of the investigation we have uncovered the fact that the Curry County tax dollars were being handled in a reckless nature,” Chandler said. “Although we are pleased that we have uncovered this, we still have a long road ahead.”

County Treasurer Rhonda Bookout placed herself on a voluntary unpaid leave of absence in February after a grand jury indicted her for tampering with public documents.

Bookout declined comment when reached at home Friday. She told the CNJ previously she had followed proper procedure in the handling of fair funds.

Chandler said no new charges in connection to the case have been filed.

Based on the state auditor’s recommendation, Pyle said the county will implement changes in the handling of funds for the 2008 County Fair including numbering gate passes, and daily balancing and depositing of funds during the fair. He said all revenues will be handled by the county’s finance department. He said funds were handled by the county treasurer in the past.

Breakdown of unaccounted for funds

Gate receipts: $13,413.25

Motocross event: $3,687.30

Startup cash: $2,408.26

Source: State auditor’s report.