A state audit revealing harshly troublesome findings against the towns of Kremlin and Hunter also offers some lessons for other groups and organizations.

The audit, released Monday, uncovered allegations of embezzlement by the town clerk and treasurer for the two nearby communities. The audit revealed that the clerk issued herself 83 unsupported mileage reimbursement payments and misappropriated 74 payroll checks. The audit also cited inappropriate comingling of funds between the two town’s local governments.

The underlying concern that allowed all of the financial wrongdoing, the audit noted, was a lack of oversight. The audit noted that in small communities, it’s difficult to maintain a segregation of duties — having a different person handling cash than posting payments and confirming the deposit.

That’s where the unfortunate situation in Kremlin and Hunter becomes a cautionary tale for all churches, civic groups, school booster clubs, local charities, small businesses and more.

Whenever you are dealing with someone else’s money, have more than one person/family involved in checking the money handling, deposits and payments. It seems like common sense, but in small groups focused around a good cause, emotions can get in the way. It’s easy to believe that everyone is trustworthy.

Good cross-checking and money-handling policies help keep people honest. Allowing just one person to handle the group’s financial affairs without accountability is simply dangling temptation in front of the “treasurer.” Almost all people in a church, civic group, booster club, charity or small businesses are trustworthy and will do the right thing. But, having at least one unrelated person formally required to review and approve expenses and income is the most important way of ensuring honesty and reassuring donors or customers or taxpayers that their money is being treated respectfully by good stewards.

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