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Petty cash sparks audit debate



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February 29, 2012 - While the cash is petty, the debate between Township Clerk Penny Shults and Township Treasurer Alice Young which sparked at the Feb. 21 Orion Township meeting was not.

The brief altercation rose due to a proposed change in what the the treasurer's office reimburses with their petty cash fund; a $100 balance that refills around two times annually. The fund is available to township employees that purchase items out-of-pocket but certain restrictions are in place to prevent abuse of the money. These restrictions include not being able to reimburse parking fees, which instead must go through a reimbursement request process.

Township supervisor JoAnn Van Tassel proposed at the meeting changing this because of the relatively low amount of money involved in three recent requests for parking fee reimbursement.

"Last week three seperate people were involved in processing a request for reimbursement for a $5 parking fee," the memo read. "An additional person will be involved in putting it on the list of bills for the Township Board meeting. Then three more people will be involved in signing the check and distributing it. The cost to process this reimbursement is ten to twenty times the cost of the parking fee."

The goal was to make the process more cost effective, but Shults brought the memo down from the consent agenda to fight against the proposal due to past abuses.

"It's a check and balance," said Shults, "The petty cash is not used often. It may only be five dollars, but its still five dollars and just because three people are required to process the request doesn't mean we should get rid of that checks and balance. In addition, I have been told not to audit the petty cash by the treasurer, so I don't have access to the petty cash drawer anymore."

Young responded to the accusation and said she saw no problem with reimbursement from the petty cash drawer, but the issue quickly became more about Shults' restriction from the fund. Shults added it was required by the township's auditors for her to audit the fund, though Young said she had never heard that information from any auditor.

Young said she saw the move from Shults as a politically motivated one and added she would not let the clerks office audit the fund because that was the responsibility of the treasurer's office.

"It doesn't have to be audited because the treasurer's office does that and Shults basically gets to audit the fund when she writes the check to refill the fund," said Young. "When anybody wants something they make a check request to the clerk's office, then the request goes to the board for approval, then it goes to Shults so the check can be signed. She gets to see everything then.

"She will not come over here to audit my office, this seems very political and I won't sit still for it."

Shults felt the opposite and said the fund should only be used rarely.

"The auditors put this policy in place so we could have a record of everything that comes into the office in the treasurer's office and everything that goes out at the clerk's," she said. "There has to be a spirit of cooperation between our offices because these procedures are in place to safeguard the interest of the community. I really believe that every township board member has the township's best interests at heart but we have to work together to be a strong community."

The vote was taken and the change was unanimously denied.

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Donald Turner
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