County auditors begin review of sheriff's office finances; Tregoning's request OK'd by commissioners


County leaders have approved a request to audit the financial operation of the sheriff's office, a procedure considered routine and good fiscal policy whenever a new agency head takes command.

Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning requested the audit, which began Thursday. He was sworn in last month after defeating two-term incumbent John H. Brown in the Republican primary and trouncing Democratic hopeful Mervin L. Spiwak in November's general election.

Tregoning had said before taking office Dec. 7 that he would seek an audit, and the Board of County Commissioners announced approval Friday.

"The sheriff asked that we review the financial position to make certain his agency is operating properly," Timothy Hartman, administrator of the Office of Performance Audit, said yesterday.

The sheriff said last month that he wanted an inventory of all equipment and furnishings and a financial audit as soon as he took office. He said he expected to find no major problems, but wanted to know if the sheriff's office was operating at peak efficiency and with complete accuracy.

In approving the audit, County Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge called it "only natural" that anyone taking over an office would "want to start with a clean slate."

Hartman said the audit could take several months, or perhaps much less, depending on what is found during the review of accounts that are used within the sheriff's office to collect or distribute money.

Such accounts would include the collection of $70 a week from each inmate on work release, and accounting for funds paid by the courts when deputies serve summonses and warrants.

Hartman said the county's Office of Performance Audit does not have sufficient staff to conduct audits of every county agency each year. He said audits often include a review of the efficiency and effectiveness of an agency and recommendations for cost-saving procedures.

Tregoning has asked for a review of only the financial operation, Hartman said.

The sheriff's office has a budget of nearly $5 million. It uses a voucher system for purchases, meaning that bills are paid by the county after a voucher request is presented by the sheriff. County managers authorize a purchase after determining that the item has been budgeted.The purchase of major items generally must go through the budget process. Tregoning has submitted a proposed budget for fiscal year 2000. The county commissioners, with the assistance of budget and management officials, will hold public hearings before approving a budget in May.

Pub Date: 1/12/99

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