SUMMERVILLE -- Town Council won't go ahead with a forensic audit of tens of thousands of dollars missing from its recreation revenue, despite concerns some council members have of bigger trouble at Town Hall.
Council members decided not to investigate further after learning that there is no way to determine a money trail because the funds involved were cash and so many people potentially had access to it.
They were given the details by town auditor Martha Bryan of Webster Rogers LLC in a closed-door meeting this week, after two fraud specialists from her firm reviewed her findings. A forensic audit is an exhaustive financial audit similar to a criminal investigation.
"Due to the lack of controls, there would be no way to pin that on somebody," said Councilman Walter Bailey, a former solicitor.
The best that could be learned is a better estimate of the money actually missing, he said, and with no way to recover the money, that wouldn't be worth the expense of the audit. "We're at a situation where we think everything that can be done has been done," he said.
Councilman Aaron Brown said that an audit performed as a criminal investigation by an outside firm is needed specifically because of the lack of controls. "We owe it to the taxpayers," he said, describing the lack of oversight at Town Hall as a "deep, dark hole."
"Even the controls that were in place failed," said Councilman Bob Jackson. "We've got a problem when our department heads have lost control."
Cash receipts between $70,000 and $111,000 were estimated missing from the Gahagan sports complex after a former town employee was arrested this year. The worker, Jeffery Allen Rabun, 51, of Ladson, was charged with embezzlement of public funds less than $5,000, according to the Dorchester County Sheriff's Office, after council requested the investigation.
An audit done as part of the investigation could not come up with records for ticket sales at 19 of 62 Gahagan sports events from 2007-10. The missing funds are an estimate of that loss, based on money collected at events for which the town has receipts.
Town officials said the total money actually missing is probably far less, because for some sports events the gate receipts were split with the group holding the event.
The sheriff's report noted, "due to a lack of monetary controls, checks and balances, and not following policy and procedures ... the amount recoverable will only be the $4,200 (the employee charged) admitted to taking."
Bryan's audit made six recommendations to improve how the cash is handled, ranging from tighter bookkeeping to better review and oversight; she went into further details during the meeting, council members said. Those improvements have been made or are being made, council members said.
"We have changed our way of doing business," finance director Belinda Harper, who was hired after the incidents took place, told council.
Dennis Pieper resigned as town administrator in March in the wake of the sheriff's report and audit, as council members pressed him on the matter. He said he resigned for personal reasons and did not comment on the issue.
The scandal has rankled council to the point where members this week questioned a department heads' request to raise the ceiling from $1,000 to $2,500 on spending they do not need approval for.
"We need to be as transparent as we can. We need to let the public know we are on top of this. We intend to get to the bottom of this," Brown said.