At a recent Shelby County Board meeting, State’s Attorney Gina Vonderheide requested a forensic audit of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office due to questions about the payroll. County Commissioner Earl Baker went one step further, calling for a forensic audit for all the county departments.
As reported earlier in the Daily Union, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office had a shift change for deputies back in 2015, from five eight-hour shifts to four 10-hour shifts. It was seen as a benefit to the deputies, even though the FOP contract stated they would have five eight-hour shifts.
That shift change caused payroll issues concerning how many hours were actually worked in a two-week pay period and possible overtime questions.
To clear up those issues, the state’s attorney called for a forensic audit by an independent auditor.
A forensic audit focuses on reconstructing past financial transactions for a specific purpose, whereas a routine audit is typically focused more on compliance or the performance of the organization.
Shelby County has had routine audits every year and those have been reported on. Those types of audits only touch on the most basic issues, such as income and expenses vs. fund balances.
Several years ago, in Dixon, Illinois, routine audits did not turn up any discrepancies. However, a forensic audit discovered a clerk had embezzled $53 million.
A forensic audit would target each past transaction, rather than a small sampling, and then compare that information with applicable laws to ensure compliance. It would take a forensic audit to identify any over-payments or overtime owed.
However, there had been other issues at the county, besides the sheriff’s office. There have been issues in the county concerning payroll, record-keeping, or the lack of it, in other departments.
Shelby County Treasurer Erica Firnhaber is transitioning county employees to a pay period that is one week in arrears, to begin in May, to fix some former practices that were not in compliance.
According to the Firnhaber, there are numerous transactions where people were paid prior to actual hours worked and then those discrepancies were supposedly adjusted later.
At the last county board meeting, when Vonderheide asked for a forensic audit for the Sherriff’s Office, Baker had another suggestion.
”Instead of doing a forensic audit of just the sheriff’s office,” Baker said, “why don’t we have one for all the departments? Let’s do it all at once and get it done.”
It was suggested that the Illinois State Police might have the ability to look into an audit of the sheriff’s office. Vonderheide said she contacted them but that they did not have the resources to do it.
”It’s a system-wide oversight or error that would not lead to criminal charges, so they said they would not be able to assist us,” Vonderheide said. “Otherwise other counties would ask them to do the same thing and they do not have those resources.”
Vonderheide suggested an independent auditor she had worked with on a case. However, others suggested getting an auditor from outside the area and that the hiring of the audit should be put out for bid.
The county board tabled the request for a forensic auditor until the March meeting so more information can be gathered.