New state audit from Brookside reveals major issues with financial controls, possible violations of state law

BROOKSIDE, Ala. (WBRC) – A new audit of the city of Brookside released by the Alabama Department of Examiners on Friday revealed several issues, including: how the city collected and spent court costs, more than a dozen ‘guns supposed to be collected as evidence is lacking, City Court officials who won a raise in 2019 as the small town’s City Court began to get busier with more tickets issued, and suggest the city has probably violated state law in the way she bid the contract for towing services.

This audit only covers the city’s finances from October 1, 2018 to February 2, 2022 and the municipal court from October 1, 2020 to February 2, 2022. It revealed that city clerks were collecting money for everything, water and gas bills in court. costs and fines in one cash drawer and did not seem to review or compare these collections on a daily basis. Auditors say that with no annual budget from 2016 to 2020, there was no way to track spending or the city’s purchasing process. Auditors found that money collected for foreclosure fees on April 27, 2021 was still sitting, undeposited, in a stack of these forms on February 8, 2022.

Brookside Finance Audit Reveals Multiple Instances of Mismanagement(Alabama Department of Public Accounts Examiners)

The audit warns: “The absence of adequate internal controls, including established policies and procedures, may expose the City to the risk of misappropriation of City assets, loss of evidence, loss or theft of cash receipts and mismanagement of City funds.”

A new Brookside City Audit released Friday by the Alabama Department of Examiners found...
A new audit of the city of Brookside released Friday by the Alabama Department of Examiners revealed several issues.(Al. Department of Public Examiners)
A new Brookside City Audit released Friday by the Alabama Department of Examiners found...
A new audit of the city of Brookside released Friday by the Alabama Department of Examiners revealed several issues.(Al. Department of Public Examiners)

Auditors also found that as the city’s police force started issuing more tickets and sending more drivers to the city court, court staff started earning more money for each session. The audit found that the Municipal Judge, District Attorney and City Attorney and Court Clerk each earned $600 for court appearances at the start of this 2018-2022 period, but in September 2019, as the level of activity increased, this payment increased to $1,000 per court session.

Auditors found that the city was paying part-time employees without any documentation — those employees would tell city officials how many hours they were working, and the city would then write them a check — a practice that, according to auditors, could violate state law. governing how public money is spent.

The audit revealed several issues in the finances of the Brookside Police Department, starting with the lack of record of the former police chief seeking approval for expenses greater than $2,500, even though city ordinances of Brookside require the mayor to approve anything above that level.

State auditors say they can’t find 19 guns listed in the police department’s evidence log, but they found 63 gun and ammunition magazines in custody that aren’t listed. on any record of evidence.

Auditors also found evidence hidden in temporary storage lockers and even found an envelope containing $1,773 in cash marked as “evidence” which was seized on April 29, 2020, but was still in a temporary storage locker. on February 16, 2022.

Audit staff also found a bag of prescription pill bottles in the evidence closet that do not appear to be related to any police department cases, and found counterfeit currency that the department seized that was supposed to be handed over to the Secret Service, but was ‘t.

Auditors also wonder if the city may have collected payments from drivers that they may not have owed. Based on a random sampling of fees collected last year, auditors found that 36% were payments for alleged infractions that aren’t even listed in city ordinances.

Finally, auditors found that the city did not request bids for the vehicle towing contract, a violation of state contract law.

We contacted the City of Brookside for comment on the audit. As of Friday evening April 15, 2022, we have yet to hear from them.

You can read the full audit below:

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James V. Hayes