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Fire district boasts clean audit

A year after a State Auditor’s report discovered evidence of embezzlement in Fire District 7’s accounting department, the district boasts a nearly spotless audit for 2001/2002 — the length of the audit period.

Convicted embezzler Joan Marie Lutz was fired and sent to jail last year after the auditor discovered she had stolen more than $3,300 from the district in an 18-month period. As a result, the district tightened up all its accounting functions.

The audit report released last month confirmed those efforts.

“Everything was fine,” said fire Chief Mike Brown.

In fact, Brown pointed out, the auditor only had three suggestions — little ways for the district to improve its record-keeping even more.

Nearly all the suggestions had to do with use of the district’s credit — a big issue during the convention-heavy summer months.

Per the auditor’s request, the district will no longer allow employees to reimburse it for unauthorized use of the district credit card. Brown said typically employees and fire commissioners on out-of-town trips were allowed to take along their spouses and put the spouse’s expenses — including disallowed incidentals such as glasses of wine with dinner — on the district’s credit card.

Later, Brown explained, the district would get the money back.

This didn’t sit well with the auditor, Brown said, who told the district administration they were effectively “loaning” the district’s credit inappropriately.

“They don’t even want (those charges) on there at all,” Brown said.

So the district has mandated “dutch” payment on out-of-town outings — only approved items go on the card and the rest is the responsibility of the individual family.

Brown said it’s more inconvenient for employees, but also said its worth it to be in full compliance with state guidelines.

He said he also appreciated the suggestion that the district issue receipts for checks, effectively treating them like cash.

“I think we should look at these things and be that technical,” Brown said.

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