Arlington receives clean audit; changes recommended for police

The full letter is posted below.

The full letter is posted below.

ARLINGTON — Though the city received clean audits for 2015, state officials recommended changes for the police department and employee spending.

The state auditor’s office Thursday released the 2015 financial and accountability audits for Arlington. Problems from past audits, including the handling of money and leases at the city’s airport, have been fixed, auditors said. There were no additional findings.

“Our staff has worked extremely hard to make sure we’ve corrected any of those items pointed out in previous audits and focused on policies and procedures to make sure we don’t have future findings,” city spokeswoman Kristin Banfield said.

However, a Dec. 5 management letter urged the city to tighten controls in the police department and on city spending cards.

In October 2015, the police department switched to a new software, called New World Systems, that is used by first responders throughout Snohomish County.

Auditors found problems resulting from staff turnover and a lack of training on the software. User access wasn’t monitored, and a record of changes to evidence in the property room wasn’t independently reviewed.

The department also had 25 “small and attractive” items such as cameras and radar guns. Some were not properly tagged, were in different locations than recorded, or had not been properly listed.

In the property room, where police keep evidence, city policy states that two people must count cash over $50. Anything more than $500 requires a supervisor when one is available. One officer counted a total of $660 without a partner or supervisor. Auditors also said the department should deposit money within 24 hours of receiving it, or extend that deadline.

Policies for handling cash and evidence have been updated, and the requirement for having two signatures on cash totals clarified, Banfield said. The city worked with the software vendor to fix glitches and add training.

The management letter offered suggestions for handling city charge cards, as well.

“There’s some pretty stringent requirements about approvals and receipting to make sure that we’re using it for appropriate purchases, so we’re just doing some tightening on those,” Banfield said.

The city is reviewing spending thresholds and which employees have cards. Auditors found that having cards for each employee creates individual accountability but increases the workload for oversight.

There were problems the city dealt with quickly but did not immediately report to the state. The charge cards were used on lodging for annual retreats that exceeded guidelines. The city provided a memorandum explaining the retreats. A meal charge lacked documentation of its business purpose. There also were six charges on the cards, totaling more than $9,500, for tuition. The city helps employees pay for job-related education.

“Unfortunately, we processed the payment incorrectly,” Banfield said. “We should have cut a check instead of using the card. I don’t think we’ll have that problem again.”

Employees also used the cards to buy more than $90,000 in chemicals for the wastewater treatment plant over two years. Purchases greater than $15,000 should go through a formal bidding process. Workers likely have been buying chemicals without officially bidding for years, but updated policies and training are in the works, Banfield said.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

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