According to the State Comptroller’s Office, more than $19,000 of taxpayer money was skimmed from the town of Florida’s accounts the past two years.
A municipal audit released Friday said the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department contacted the Comptroller’s Office in June with “concerns about a potential cash shortage in the clerk’s office.”
The Sheriff’s Department wouldn’t comment on the case because it is an ongoing investigation, but the audit report went on to say an investigator suspected a relative had stolen the money from Town Clerk Jacquelyn Francisco while she stored it in her home and the office of her auto repair company.
Over the course of its own investigation, the state Comptroller’s Office found at least $19,107 had gone missing between Jan. 1, 2011, and June 30, 2012.
During the time period of the audit, Francisco kept the property tax money and the funds she collected from various town fees in the office of Francisco’s Auto Repair in Amsterdam. The report claimed some of her family members had access to the funds.
Going through bank deposit records and what the report refers to as Francisco’s “inadequate accounting records,” auditors found thousands of tax dollars that had been collected but never deposited.
The town clerk is responsible for collecting property taxes, but has to turn them over to the county each year. Because of the shortfalls, when the time came for Francisco to pay the county, she had to move money from another town account and even her own personal savings.
In 2011 and 2012, she used $8,000 of her own money and over $3,000 from the town to make final payments to the county.
The report blamed Francisco’s bookkeeping for the financial mistakes, saying: “The lack of adequate accounting records and poor internal controls caused the … shortage.”
In fact, the report said her records were so bad, auditors couldn’t be sure that only $19,107 was missing.
“We were unable to determine if this was the case or quantify additional missing moneys because the records were so poorly maintained,” it said.
Francisco didn’t shoulder the full weight of the responsibility. The Comptroller’s Office also blamed the town government for not keeping better track of its finances.
The state requires that towns perform yearly audits, but Florida did not conduct them with any regularity.
Finally, the report suggested town and property tax money should be kept in a more secure location.
Town of Florida Supervisor William Strevy could not be reached for comment Monday, but in his response letter to the Comptroller’s Office he said the town has already taken action to correct the problems.
Reached Monday, Francisco declined to comment, other than saying the issues have been addressed.
Francisco paid back the remaining $11,000 of missing tax money and is now using a computer bookkeeping program specifically designed for town clerks. She also has a new safe for town finances.