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Commissioners set to resurrect county audit committee

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By Emile Hallez

More than six months after the county commissioners unexpectedly dissolved Jeffco’s audit committee, the board last week began resurrecting a group tasked with reviewing the county’s financial audits.

A new, more structured audit committee will be more independent and transparent, county officials said at a Jan. 31 meeting, and members will also receive more training.

The commissioners had taken issue with the necessity of the former committee, which they said performed a duplicative service for which the county paid an external auditing firm. Further, members of the committee overstepped their authority by gaining access to human services documents, including adoption records, they said.

“Previously, there were some concerns that the audit committee was getting into some areas they weren’t supposed to get into,” Commissioner Faye Griffin said. "We need to be aware of what areas they’re looking at.”

Members of the audit committee were surprised at last year’s move, which they said was detrimental to the county’s comprehensive auditing program. The county commissioners were expected then to assume the responsibility of reviewing external audits.

Jefferson County Assessor Jim Everson, who served on the former audit committee but will not be permitted to join the new incarnation, said he was pleased to hear the commissioners are re-forming the panel.

“It’s just good practice to have that audit committee,” he said. “It’s always a good idea to get another pair of eyes to look at your financial statements and financial performance.”

Despite the fact that he would not be eligible to rejoin the committee, Everson said he was content with the decision, as qualified auditors are plentiful.

“I enjoyed my service on the audit committee, and I felt we did a good job. But there are many people in the county … that have the expertise to add value to the audit process. So I don’t feel badly about it.”

Former commissioner Kevin McCasky initiated formation of the audit committee in 2006, shortly after former treasurer Mark Paschall directed millions in county funds into collateralized mortgage obligations, an investment the county characterized as unlawful.

The committee was tasked with working with independent accountants who audited the county’s finances and those of its federally funded programs. The committee also created and monitored the county’s internal controls to ensure compliance with state and federal laws and to help prevent fraud.

The new committee will consist of five appointed members serving staggered two-year terms. Members, who will meet at least quarterly, could serve on the committee for up to eight years. Jeffco is seeking committee members with financial backgrounds, and at least two of the members would be required to have experience in government finance.

The county is planning to have a new committee in place by the end of the month, well ahead of the June date at which the county’s external audit becomes available.

“The outcome of this is to reaffirm and to improve upon the county’s overall financial health,” Director of Administrative Services Todd Leopold said. “It’s going to be much more transparent. And we’re going to have some very good expertise there.”

 

Contact Emile Hallez at emile@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22.