Salted with Sharks

Parks & Rec Cites Improper Transfer of Funds by Village President Pro Tem

In Gov't Watch, Politics, Uncategorized, Village Money Situation on June 19, 2014 at 6:11 pm

By Emily Votruba

At their June 12 regular meeting, the Parks and Recreation Commission voted to submit a letter to Council reprimanding president pro tempore Robin Rommell for improper transfer of funds. (Full disclosure: I am one of the signatories of that letter.)

A statement obtained by P&R secretary Jennifer Wilkins from State Savings Bank on June 12 (see below) shows a transfer of $20,000 from the P&R/Solstice account on May 22 to another Village account. The sum reappears in the P&R/Solstice account on June 10.

Wilkins and clerk Mary Kalbach discovered that the P&R/Solstice account was $20K down on June 10, as they were preparing to send out checks to pay expenses for the Solstice Festival, which takes place this Saturday. When they discovered the missing funds, which would have resulted in the bouncing of these and other checks, Kalbach alerted Linda Manville, and Rommell transferred the money back into the P&R/Solstice account.

In an email to me, Rommell stated: “It was a mistake. Instead of transferring money out of the deposit account into the checking account, we mixed up the numbers and pulled it from the wrong account. When we realized our mistake, we transferred it back.”

Mary Kalbach, acting treasurer Toni Flynn, and trustee Linda Manville, who has been helping out in the office in budget and other matters, all say they were not aware Rommell had transferred that sum. The transaction was not logged in the General Ledger accounting program.

Kalbach told me she alerted Rommell in May that the Village had about $18K in checks out to BLUA and that money needed to be transferred from another account in order to cover those checks. She says she did not specify an amount. She says Rommell later told her she had transferred money, but did not mention the amount or account of origin.

Kalbach says it’s been customary to draw from the Streets account or from the Tax account when money is needed for general expenses. A “cheat-sheet” listing each account number and its corresponding fund name is in the Village office and copies were made available to everyone involved in transferring funds.

In the letter of reprimand, the P&R Commission states that the transfer was a violation of the Interfund Borrowing Policy Council adopted in March. They request

  1. “That a review of all village bank accounts be conducted and checked against the journal entries to find, and remedy, any other unauthorized transactions that may have been made,
  2. That Ms. Rommell be censured with an official reprimand to be entered into the Village record, and
  3. That Ms. Rommell be removed as a signatory from all village accounts and that all Village financial access passwords be changed and withheld from her.”

The Interfund Borrowing Policy (see below) specifies “the Treasurer may utilize short-term interfund borrowing to satisfy Village cash flow needs, provided that the loaning fund is repaid by the borrowing fund within 90 days. … If a short-term interfund loan is necessary, then that condition shall be disclosed, in writing, to the Council by the Treasurer.”

Because of the cut in hours at the office and personnel turnover, both Robin Rommell and, less frequently, Linda Manville, have been performing financial transactions that would normally be performed not by the Village president or pro tem but by the Village clerk and treasurer.

In an email to me, Linda Manville explained the current system in the office: “The process regarding bill paying has settled in, for now, to coding and authorizing by staff and BFA [Budget, Finance, and Audit Committee] members. Once bills are coded, Mary [Kalbach] will total them and go online to bank and check balance in checking account. Depending on balance she will call Robin. If money needs to be transferred to the checking account, Robin will tell Mary how much to take from specific accounts and move to checking.”

According to Kalbach, some checks have bounced and some payments have been returned or charged late fees because payments were sent in without stubs and the receiving institution did not know where to apply the payment. Some other loose ends may remain: According to Wilkins, Village bank account cards issued to former employees Sharyn Bower and Laura Manville have still not been deactivated.

The Parks & Recreation letter further states: “The Village can ill afford to suffer additional financial harm, trigger additional audits, or be found to be in direct violation of the recently enacted Corrective Action Plan and ordinances. As residents and friends of the Village of Elberta we have the gravest concern that Ms. Rommell has shown poor judgment and a blatant disregard for the rules and regulations that she has sworn to uphold.”

Last Thursday, P&R secretary Jennifer Wilkins asked that the issue be added to the agenda for the meeting tonight. According to Wilkins the agenda, which was compiled by Robin Rommell, does not show that item or any of the other items Wilkins requested.


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