Denny Foster

Columbia County Judge Denny Foster addresses the Columbia County Quorum Court during an April 5, 2021, gathering in Magnolia.

The results from Columbia County’s latest Financial and Compliance Report were announced and approved Monday by the Columbia County Quorum Court. The report included the findings of the 2019 Legislative Joint Auditing Committee.

According to the audit results, the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office and the Columbia County Circuit Clerk’s office were both cited for accounting mishaps.

At CCSO, the audit results noted that the balance in the Sheriff’s Office Bond and Fine bank account was not identified with receipts issued for cases not yet adjudicated.

Columbia County Sheriff Mike Loe on Monday said that, upon receiving the audit results in January, he felt that errors had been made -- enough that his office filed a complaint with the Arkansas Legislative Audit Committee.

After a “very professional” meeting with audit representatives in Magnolia, Loe noted that, on some issues, the agency was “right” and some it was “wrong.”

“We still had a formal write-up after it was all said and done,” said Loe as he addressed the Quorum Court on Monday. “That was because the bookkeeper misunderstood what they were told in the previous audit. I even had two people watching and working on the books, and both of them thought they were right.”

The sheriff said that during their meeting in Magnolia with audit representatives, he and his bookkeeping staff asked “tough questions” so everyone could be on the same page going forward.

In a Feb. 4 letter to Columbia County Judge Denny Foster, Loe said that, after the meeting, one of the reportable findings was removed, but another finding remained in place. The sheriff noted that the original audit result required a meeting in Little Rock in front of the state audit committee, but after revisiting the issue, that trip was no longer needed.

Loe noted that new procedures and checks have been put in place to catch any mistakes going forward.

“That issue has been resolved, and we put a system in place to check to see if it's being done properly,” he said.

The audit results from the Columbia County Circuit Clerk’s office cited two discrepancies. The state audit stated that bank reconciliations were not properly prepared for all accounts and receipt journals were not properly maintained. The second audit point stated that the circuit clerk’s Trust account ledger was not properly maintained, noting that receipts and checks were not properly recorded.

Similar issues have been ongoing since 2016, according to the report.

Columbia County Circuit Clerk Angela Keith was not able to attend Monday’s Quorum Court gathering due to a prior commitment, but she sent a letter addressing the audit points. In it, Keith said that she had been keeping up with the bank reconciliations properly since 2020.

She also addressed the trust account issue with receipts and checks, saying that she is still working on the discrepancies and that a Certified Public Accountant has been hired by the office to help sort out the issues this year. Keith, who took office in 2019, noted that a CPA was not used by her immediate predecessor, former Columbia County Circuit Clerk Phyllis Disotell, but that a CPA was used by former circuit clerk Janice Linkous, who preceded Disotell and ended her term at the end of 2014. The presence of a CPA was and is helpful, according to Keith.

“The CPA has given me some guidance on where to start, as he said it was right at the end of 2014,” she said in her letter to the Quorum Court. “… I am working to the best of my ability with the time I have had. The CPA told me he will advise me until he can devote more time to this. Rest assured, this is not being taken lightly.”

In other Columbia County Quorum Court news:

-- Jenny Marie Whitehead attended her first meeting as the new Justice of the Peace for District 11. The Magnolia resident was sworn into office on March 24 after Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson appointed her to fill the void left by former District 11 JP, Jason Ray, who moved out of the district and resigned his office in February.

Whitehead will now serve out the remainder of Ray’s original term, which ends Dec. 31, 2022.

-- The Quorum Court unanimously approved a $2,500 donation from Saltwerx LLC, a Siloam Springs-based mineral and brine exploration firm. The funds were appropriated into the Circuit Clerk’s office where they will be used on salaries to help fund an ongoing scanning project in the department.

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