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Auditor criticizes Murray County agency

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Byrd
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SULPHUR Financial oversight of Murray County's 911 emergency call center was so lax that governing board members once issued a $65,000 check to a company that was only supposed to be paid $650, a state audit has revealed.

It took the Murray County 911 Trust Authority board nearly two months to discover and correct the mistake, auditors said.

"The financial controls were horrible," said State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd. "There was little or no board oversight."

The $65,000 check was just one of many problems auditors discovered.

"Receipts, invoices or other supporting information could not be provided for $5,730.25 of the $13,892 of expenditures made on the authority's credit card," auditors said. "In addition to being a violation of ... (state law), expenditures made without receipts reflect a lack of oversight by the authority board."

The authority took in more than $1.1 million during the two-year period that was audited, which went from July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2017.

State law requires public entities to deposit funds they receive daily or no later than the next banking day, but former 911 Director Gary Ligon "routinely held deposits for days, weeks, and at times even months after funds were received," auditors reported.

Convenience should not have been a major issue. The bank that the trust authority used was located about two blocks from Ligon's office at the 911 Dispatch Center, auditors noted.

Ligon was provided with a vehicle to use and was allowed fuel expenses in the performance of his duties, but auditors said they could find no mileage log that would allow them to determine what fuel expenses were job related.

Efforts to reach Ligon for comment were unsuccessful.

The authority failed to maintain complete financial records, as required by state law, auditors said.

"More than 700,000 deleted files were recovered by the OSBI (Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation) from Ligon's computer and three other computer storage devices," but those files did not include comprehensive financial information bank records, or meeting minutes of all transactions during the audit period, the audit report said.

"The authority did not file annual budgets with Murray County and did not obtain audits, both required by law," auditors said.

Citing the board's lack of oversight, auditors said they were recommending that the board of county commissioners consider having all revenues and expenditures handled through the county.

Murray County District Attorney Craig Ladd said Friday that he has not yet seen the audit report, but that he and an assistant prosecutor for Murray County plan to review it next week.

Randy Ellis

For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two... Read more ›

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