After accounting snafus, York County reestablishes auditing department

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale urges lawmakers to finish the state budget at a press conference Thursday, Aug. 17, outside the York County Administrative Center. DePasquale was joined by West York Mayor Shawn Mauck and state Rep. Carol Hill-Evans. Photo by Jason Addy.

In light of several accounting issues discovered across York County departments in recent years, the York County controller reestablished an internal auditing department at the beginning of 2019.

The county now has an internal auditor — Patrick Clement, hired in January — and an internal audit manager, Cathy Strine, hired in April.

"When an auditor general comes in and does the audit, or external auditors do audits, they give recommendations, but there's no one left in place to help find a solution," said Tyler Chronister, deputy controller.

The county has had its share of accounting snafus over the past few years.

On May 3, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale announced that the York County Recorder of Deeds Office improperly accounted for $2.1 million of taxpayer money in an escrow account.

The same accounting issue was discovered by a separate audit released in 2016, which covered 2009-2014. The funds not properly accounted for then totaled about $1.7 million. 

When the auditor's office brought up the earlier findings to then-Recorder of Deeds Randi Reisinger, DePasquale said, she and her office “basically thumbed their nose at me” and did nothing to address the issue. 

Current Recorder of Deeds Laura Shue inherited the problem and is now working with another deputy controller to reconcile those accounts.

Clement and Strine make sure every dollar the county collects and disperses is properly accounted for and sent to the right recipient, Chronister said.

Clement and Strine report to Chronister and have a yearly operating budget of $125,000, which covers their salaries plus equipment and software.

The county had an internal audit department until about 10 years ago, Chronister said, but a previous county administration decided to move all of the auditing to an outside contractor for budgetary reasons.

More:Audit: York County Recorder of Deeds improperly accounted for $2.1 million

More:Former recorder of deeds silent as successor cleans up $2.1M escrow fund

Hiring two full-time employees will cost a lot less than paying an outside auditor to cover everything the internal auditing staff will now do, said Controller Gregory Bower.

The accounting errors aren't limited to the recorder of deeds office. 

Between 2004 and 2017, the York County Clerk of Courts Office disbursed more than $1.5 million in DUI fines revenue to the wrong townships and boroughs, with Paradise Township erroneously receiving $924,742 of that total.

The clerk of courts office also has about $165 million it's owed in uncollected fines, costs and restitution.

But the first thing the new department is working on is an audit of the 60-some elected tax collectors across the county.

The tax collectors don't have a consistent system to keep track of the monies they collect, Bower said, so the internal auditor will likely recommend new procedures.

Chronister said the first tax collector audits will be prepared sometime this summer, and all county audit reports will be available to the public online.

"Anybody that handles cash will see us," Bower said.

The county will still retain the services of an external auditor to monitor the controller's office, Bower said, which is required by law.

More:Who owes the most (and least) through York County?

More:York County DUI fines: $1.5M went to wrong municipalities