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Special meeting to review fire dept. audit

State auditor’s report finds improper accounting practices

SOLON– The release of a report which found improper bookkeeping practices within the Solon Volunteer Fire Department and its benevolent association will be discussed at a special meeting of the Solon City Council Sept. 23.
State Auditor Mary Mosiman issued a report Sept. 22 after reviewing accounts and transactions of the City of Solon Volunteer Fire Department, the Tri-Township Fire Department, and the Solon Firefighters Benevolent Association for the period Jan. 1, 2011, through May 6, 2014.
Mosiman identified $67,557.54 of improper and unsupported disbursements from several bank accounts reviewed. The procedures also identified $1,167 of collections that were not deposited to the bank. Mosiman also reported it was not possible to determine if any additional collections from fundraisers or contributions were not properly deposited during the period reviewed because adequate records were not available.
The $1,374.37 of improper disbursements identified consisted of payments related to “stag parties,” alcohol, gift cards, and interest and late fees incurred on a credit card account established for the department, according to a press release from the state auditor’s office. The $66,183.17 of unsupported disbursements identified included payments to vendors.
Mosiman also noted $69,741.11 in disbursements for which the public benefit was not clearly documented. The disbursements included donations, flower purchases, member appreciation events, and food purchases.
The City of Solon Volunteer Fire Department and the Tri-Township Fire Department operate as a single entity under a 28E agreement between the city and Big Grove, Cedar, and Newport townships.
City Administrator Cami Rasmussen issued a statement Sept. 22, which indicated the city had been cooperating with the audit review and had been working with other local government agencies to clearly delineate responsibilities for the department.
Rasmussen’s statement noted the council will discuss and act on the state auditor’s recommendations “to provide clarification of the duties and responsibilities of the three entities that work together to provide exceptional fire protection and emergency services to the City of Solon and surrounding areas with transparency of administrative transactions a high priority.”
“We are pleased there is no evidence of wrong doing,” Rasmussen said in the statement. “It appears there is a need to update procedures so there is no doubt that the fundraising activities of the Solon Firefighters Benevolent Association produce private money as intended.”
State auditor Mosiman reported a number of collections deposited to the benevolent association’s checking account were collected in the name of and for the benefit of the department. Because funds collected for the benefit of the department are public funds, a press release stated, they should have been deposited with the city. The $1,167.00 of collections not deposited were proceeds from a fundraiser held in November 2010 which were recorded in the Benevolent Association’s check register for its checking account but were not deposited to the bank.
Mosiman recommended proceeds of fundraisers sponsored on behalf of the department and other donations made in the name of the department be deposited with the city in accordance with section 384.20 of the Code of Iowa. Mosiman also recommended establishing procedures to ensure all financial transactions are deposited to or issued from the proper accounts between the city and the benevolent association.
According to the state auditor’s report, the review was triggered by a citizen request.
A copy of the report has been filed with the Johnson County Attorney and is available for review on the Auditor of State’s web site at http://auditor.iowa.gov/specials/1220-0488-T000.pdf and in the Office of Auditor of State.