URBANA — A forensic accountant hired by Champaign County Executive Darlene Kloeppel urged the county treasurer’s office in late December to “stop the bleeding,” according to a summary of the accountant’s progress notes posted for county board members.
Kloeppel said she hired the consulting CPA from the firm of CliftonLarsonAllen to work for a month this past December to help Treasurer Laurel Prussing’s office catch up on reconciling county bank accounts for January through October 2019, with the understanding that Prussing’s office would learn the process and complete the work for the rest of the year.
A summary of the work done by the CPA for the week ending Dec. 28, 2019, referred to a discussion with the treasurer’s office about the bank-account reconciliation process.
“The treasurer’s office responded that they don’t know how to record or post transactions or have knowledge of what the bank-reconciliation process is,” the summary report states.
“When asked if they are currently posting or recording any transactions or adjustments, or doing anything regarding the bank accounts, (they were) told ‘no,’” it goes on to state. “I strongly advised them to stop the bleeding, and in 2020 to start immediately processing any bank transactions, adjustments, as well as keep any documentation as it relates to each of the bank accounts.”
In a memo to the county board dated Jan. 7, Kloeppel said the consulting CPA spent about 140 hours at a cost of $20,000, but was unable to complete the treasurer’s office work because of missing information.
“Currently, there is no one knowledgeable in the treasurer’s office to finish 2019 reconciliations and start with January 2020,” Kloeppel said.
Prussing, a Democrat elected treasurer in November 2018, recently resigned, effective Jan. 31.
While she hadn’t seen the summary of the CliftonLarsonAllen notes as of Friday, Prussing said more than 99 percent of the work done by her office is connected to property taxes, while bank-account reconciliations make up a fraction of 1 percent.
“It’s a small thing compared to the total responsibilities of this office,” she said. “Obviously, it has to be done right, but it’s not a crisis.”
Also in the summary of CliftonLarsonAllen notes for the week ending Dec. 14 and listed under additional issues and concerns was this: “Transactions not posted, posted incorrectly, posted in other months.”
For the week ending Dec. 21, the CPA noted that some October bank statements were still missing.
The notes go on to state, “For January bank reconciliations, worked through seven of the 10 accounts; only two are complete. The other five of the seven have very large variances.”
County Board Chairman Giraldo Rosales said he read the single-page summary of the CPA’s notes and pronounced it “thin.”
“It wasn’t what I expected,” he said. “We did ask Darlene (Kloeppel) to reproduce it. It had no figures. It had no worthwhile information to go on to move forward.”
Rosales said what he had been expecting was more detail on what was wrong and how far behind the treasurer’s office was.
Kloeppel has outlined a plan to move forward in her memo to the county board.
The county auditor’s office has offered a staff person on an emergency, temporary basis to work overtime on the 2019 bank-account reconciliations, to be paid from the treasurer’s budget, she said.
County Auditor George Danos will also train new staff in the treasurer’s office on how to do posting and reconciliations going forward, and the Tazewell County treasurer will provide training on the treasurer’s use of DEVNET property-tax software, Kloeppel said.
Rosales will formally announce the upcoming treasurer vacancy at a county board committee meeting Tuesday, which will start the process for replacing Prussing at least temporarily. The remainder of Prussing’s four-year term will be up for election Nov. 3.
It will be at least later in February and possibly in March until a replacement can be appointed and confirmed, Rosales said.
Prussing’s replacement must be a Democrat, but it must also be someone who is qualified, he said.
“We’re in a pickle where the office is hemorrhaging, and we need somebody who is seriously going to do the work and crank out the numbers, not a political hire,” he said.