Auditor: Ex-county treasurer wrote self $114,506 in checks

Published 3:54 pm Tuesday, October 10, 2017

LOUISVILLE (AP) — Auditors reviewing an Appalachian county’s finances found that its former treasurer wrote herself checks worth more than $114,000 by dipping into county funds and emergency preparedness grant money, Kentucky’s auditor said Tuesday.

State Auditor Mike Harmon said he was forwarding the findings regarding former Jackson County Treasurer Beth Sallee to the FBI, Kentucky State Police and state attorney general.

“Our auditors identified that the former Jackson County treasurer made numerous improper payments to herself,” Harmon said in video remarks.

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Sallee, who resigned from the appointed position last year, could not be reached for comment. A voice mailbox for a phone number listed for her was full.

Her lawyer, Sharon Allen, declined to comment.

Jackson County Judge-Executive Shane Gabbard acknowledged that inadequate fiscal oversight kept county officials from properly monitoring Sallee.

“She was very good at hiding things that none of us would ever see,” he said in a phone interview. “So we established a lot stronger internal controls to try to prevent this from happening again. What we had one set of eyes looking at, now we’ve got three sets of eyes looking at.”

The audits of the Jackson County Fiscal Court released Tuesday covered the 2015 and 2016 fiscal years. State law requires annual audits of county fiscal courts.

Sallee wrote herself an extra $114,506 in checks in the two years, the auditor’s office said. She received improper paychecks totaling $54,326 beyond her approved salary, he said.

Sallee also tapped into federal funding the eastern Kentucky county receives to prepare for emergencies, Harmon’s office said. She wrote herself checks totaling $60,180 from a grant, it said.

There are additional missing funds and discrepancies in accounts that Sallee controlled, auditors said. Also, county expenses went unpaid, resulting in late fees and penalties, they said.

Harmon said the audits found numerous problems with Jackson County’s accounting and financial practices. He faulted the county for a lack of internal accounting controls and management oversight.

The fiscal court incurred significant deficits in 2015 and 2016 due to lack of budget monitoring, auditors found. In 2016, the estimated county deficit was $287,898.

The county also failed to manage its payroll consistent with state law, the audit said. In both years, the county overpaid and underpaid employees at various times, failed to maintain accurate timesheets and made incorrect withholdings that resulted in penalties and interest, it said.

Harmon said taxpayers in the county of about 13,500 people deserve better.

“There are avenues for recovery,” he said, referring to overpayments to the ex-treasurer. “However, it is not known at this time if all of those avenues will be successful in regaining the lost dollars.”

Gabbard, in his first term as judge-executive, said most of the findings in the audits have been corrected.

“So I’m looking for the ‘17 audit to be much different than these two,” he said.