Oct. 6, 2016 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Plymouth Michigan News
Following a federal audit of the township last year, officials formally agreed to make changes to record keeping and accounting of drug forfeiture funds in the police department. According to information provided during the board of trustees meeting last week, those changes have not been made.
A request for an update of the status of the audit was requested as a last-minute addition to the agenda at the meeting by Trustee Chuck Curmi, who also requested a status report of the 2015 Plante Moran financial audit in the township.
A list of items of concern discovered during the much-publicized audit remains “unclosed” according to the official semi-annual recommendations report of the federal agency.
When the official results of the federal audit of the Plymouth Township Police Department Equitable Sharing Program Activities were published in September 2015, several violations of federal guidelines were cited. Federal auditors were particularly concerned, it appeared, with the conduct of Treasurer Ron Edwards who had established at least one bank account for the federal sharing funds under his individual control. Edwards’ failure and refusal to provide records and receipts for the drug-forfeiture funds to Police Chief Tom Tiderington were also cited as irregular by the auditors.
Plymouth Township received nearly $2 million as a share of funds from forfeited assets derived from illegal activities and the report stated that the treasurer’s unauthorized and irregular control of the funds was a violation of federal procedures. The federal agents said at the time of the audit that they found no missing or unaccounted-for drug forfeiture-funds, but identified various internal control issues “…including a lack of documented policies and procedures that weakened the Plymouth Township PD’s (Police Department) management of its equitable sharing activities, as well as incomplete compliance with Department of Justice (DOJ) requirements pertaining to accounting for equitable sharing receipts and the allowable use of equitable sharing funds.”
Investigators called the items violations of standard accounting procedures and made 12 recommendations to the DOJ Criminal Division. According to the audit report, the criminal division- through the Asset Forfeiture and Money laundering Section, agreed with all 12 recommendations.
On May 4, the Office of Inspector General provided a list of 12 recommendations to Plymouth Township that had not been “closed” as of March 31, including:
Item 208: Ensure that Plymouth Township PD, in coordination with Plymouth Township, establishes written procedures for the administration of equitable sharing funds. These procedures should appropriately incorporate the Plymouth Township PD throughout the process including, at a minimum, providing the Chief of Police with copies of all documentation….
Item 213: Ensure that the Plymouth Township PD, in con- junction with the Plymouth Township Treasurer’s Office, establishes procedures for timely submitting accurate and complete Equitable Sharing Agreement and Certification Reports…
Item 214: Ensure that the Plymouth Township PD, in con- junction with the Plymouth Township Treasurer…make any necessary adjustments to the ledgers so that the ledgers only reflect expenditures paid for with DOJ equitable sharing funds. They should also reconcile the bank account activity and properly allo- cate interest to the different sources of funds…
Curmi’s verbal inquiry regarding the DOJ and township audits drew little response from Edwards when the agenda item was discussed at the meeting. Edwards said that the DOJ had requested information from his office in April, July and September.
“Are we OK? What’s the risk of having to pay any money back or being excluded from the drug forfeiture plan,” Curmi asked.
Township Supervisor Shannon Price replied, “When we got the report a year ago we complied with everything they asked for, but they came back and have more questions.”
Township Police Chief Tom Tiderington who was in attendance did not respond to the inquiries.
When Curmi displayed a checklist he obtained directly from Plante Moran which detailed numerous open items required to complete the township audit due since June 30, Edwards responded that most items were handled.
According to DOJ spokesperson John Lavinksy, the agency publishes the list of ongoing recommendations twice each year. Accordingly, all items on the report are labeled resolved, how- ever “resolved” means the investigated department has agreed to implement the recommendation or has proposed actions that will address the recommendation.
“The recommendations list is a follow-up process to make sure things are done; it’s an ongoing process. When the recommendations are assessed we close them one-by-one and when all are closed we close the report. The (Plymouth Township) items are not assessed.” The report states, “Specifically, a recommendation identified as not closed in this report may subsequently have been closed.”
The next list is scheduled for October or November and will contain information as of Sept. 30.