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Out Here: Audits expensive, but revealing

Published: Friday, April 11, 2014 12:23 p.m. CST

Audits are important because they give organizations a third-party look at their finances to see whether the bookkeeping is being done correctly.

Coloma Township hasn't done an audit done in two decades, even though state law requires townships to conduct one every 4 years.

Conventional audits have their limitations, often failing to catch criminal activity. As it happens, government agencies nearly always get clean audits.

For instance, Dixon got good audits for years, but as we all now know, Rita Crundwell was making off with millions of dollars.

A couple of years ago, a Whiteside County Board member angrily chastised this newspaper for not reporting that the county got a clean audit. But that's not really news. All the audit shows is that the county is doing its job; should we expect anything less?

In 2012, auditors from Wipfli, which has an office in Sterling, spoke before the Morrison City Council and took questions from the audience.

I asked whether they could have caught a Crundwell-style situation with a routine audit.

They responded that it would have been difficult to catch such a problem with a regular audit, which isn't designed to root out fraud.

For the past year, Wipfli has been auditing Coloma's books, and it is struggling. An audit for such a small entity is relatively simple and should have been finished a long time ago. But township trustees say the finances are such a mess that the auditors don't have what they need to conduct a proper audit.

At the township's recent annual meeting, Coloma residents voted to have a forensic audit conducted, which is an in-depth examination that is designed to root out fraud. It's expensive, but revealing.

Giuliani 'makes things up'

I have written two stories about the Ogle County Sheriff Michael Harn's handling of money it received from the Oregon Park District.

On our Facebook page, some folks expressed their displeasure with the coverage.

For Thursday's story, Jim Coutts, the district's former $120,000-a-year executive director, was among the most angered.

"Giuliani fabricates his own story and takes great liberty with information provided by those he talks with," Coutts wrote. "This guy by no means can or should be trusted with the truth or the facts, and I understand why no one wants to talk with this guy. He makes things up, and in doing so now, may have ruined a man's 29 year honorable career for a personal witch hunt leading to nowhere. I hope Mike doesn't have a heart attack over this garbage. I'm familiar with the facts of this story, and this article is a joke, as is this newspaper."

I was interested in what Coutts knew. I messaged him: "If you have a perspective on the story regarding the $5,000 checks from the park district to the sheriff's department, I sure would like to get that out to readers. Thanks, David Giuliani"

"Go to hell," he shot back.

I'll take that as a "no comment."

David Giuliani is a news editor for Sauk Valley Media. You can reach him at dgiuliani@saukvalley.com or 800-798-4085, ext. 525. Follow him on Twitter: @DGiuliani_SVM.

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