COUNCIL ACCEPTS EXTERNAL REVIEW

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By Pam Reinig

Register Editor

 

The Elkader City Council last week accepted the findings of a state-mandated review of office procedures and financial management practices.

Hogan-Hansen, a Waterloo-based firm, conducted the review, which covered the period July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016. Though a few suggestions were made, there was no finding of oversights or mismanagement.

According to City Administrator Jennifer Cowsert, the review replaces full audits that used to be conducted every four years. 

“Towns of less than 1,000 residents are at risk for financial mismanagement because they generally don’t have enough checks and balances because of their small staff sizes,” Cowsert explained. “The review ensures that someone from the outside is looking at our operation annually.” She added that full audits are still done on a random basis.

The review was done by a team of three professionals who spent a few days in Elkader scrutinizing documents they requested as part of a 45-item checklist given to Cowsert. The annual cost of the review is $4,500 but this year the town paid $6,400.

“The state auditor’s office recommends a deeper review whenever key personnel leave,” explained Cowsert. Since Marla (Reimer) retired this year, we agreed to that guideline.”

Most of the review team’s recommendations fall under the heading “segregation of duties.” For example, in area like handling and recording cash deposits, the team would like to see more people involved in the process as a safeguard measure. Cowsert explained that’s no feasible with a two-person staff.

“We can and will address the findings,” said Mayor Josh Pope, “but the big take-away here is that there was absolutely no financial mismanagement of city funds.”

Also at their most recent meeting, the Council approved a loan agreement not to exceed $50,000 for a new police car. The expenditure is part of a larger general obligation note of $152,150 that also includes the city’s share of a recent fire department purchase.

After the meeting, Cowsert provided an update on the search for a new police chief. The city received 11 applications; three applicants participated in first-round interviews. Cowsert said another round of interviews might be scheduled. She is hopeful that a replacement for retired chief Marvin Duff can be found as early as the end of March.

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