Officials respond to audit

Barbour County Sheriff John Hawkins and Prosecuting Attorney Leckta Poling each responded to recent audit findings during Tuesday’s Barbour County Commission meeting.

The Barbour County audit reports for the 2010-2011 and the 2011-2012 fiscal years were published in September on the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office website. According to the audit report, the sheriff’s department’s concealed weapons fund was used to purchase alcohol, flowers and gift cards for departmental staff and deputies.

In response to the recent findings, Hawkins issued a memo about a new taxable fringe benefit policy for department employees. The memo was shared at Tuesday’s commission meeting, although Hawkins himself was not present.

“At a recent meeting, I was advised by the W.Va. Auditor’s Office of some issues that will affect every employee in the Barbour County Sheriff’s Office,” Hawkins wrote in the memo.

County Administrator Chuck Foley said during Tuesday’s meeting the taxable fringe benefits were explained to the commission in a meeting with the West Virginia State Auditor’s office and in training sessions. The audit that went public in mid-September from the 2012 fiscal year found that proper payroll procedures were not in place to ensure that all taxable income for county employees was included on W2 forms or 1099 miscellaneous income forms.

“I’m glad to see the sheriff is taking a lead in implementing that program,” Foley said.

The policy outlines items, awards and other expenses that would qualify as taxable on W2 forms including Class A uniforms for deputy sheriffs, winter boots, polo shirts, coats, ball caps and gloves.

Items like department-issued cell phones are not considered taxable unless the employee chooses the cell phone stipend instead.

“This is an IRS ruling and not within our control,” Hawkins wrote. “We will not be going back through records to back tax you (the employee) for these expenditures.”

Hawkins also wrote that items in this category would be submitted to the county clerk’s payroll department as taxable income. He said it would add the amount to the employee’s income and withhold the resulting taxes from the employee’s paycheck. Hawkins wrote that he assumed the amount would appear on employee W2 forms as extra income.

The policy, which went into effect Sept. 18, follows 2011 and 2012 audit reports that included other findings.

The audit also cited a violation of West Virginia State Ethics guidelines. The guidelines state that public funds for events conducted to recognize employees should not exceed $25 per employee on an annual basis. The money can be used for light refreshments, meals or tokens of appreciation as part of any activity that recognizes employees or promotes morale. Money in excess of that up to $100 should first be approved by the county commission, according to the code.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, Prosecuting Attorney Leckta Poling responded to an unrelated finding regarding her department’s investigation funds in which the audit claimed supporting documentation was not provided on all purchases. Poling provided the commission with missing receipts from two buffets she had attended using an employee pay card.

The audit report also claims that some checks did not include the proper signatures of the Barbour County clerk. Poling said that the clerk’s signature was not actually needed.

“That, I believe, should address all outstanding issues with regard to the audit on that,” Poling said. “There is no entity that signs off on those (investigation fund) purchases.”

The Inter-Mountain reported on Sept. 14 that the audit found an issue with investigation fund checks through the Barbour County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for claims that were without supporting documentation or signatures from the Barbour County Clerk. No corrections have been made or posted to the audit, which is viewable on the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office website.