County addresses audit deficiencies

2012-09-23T00:00:00Z 2012-09-23T21:47:03Z County addresses audit deficienciesJoyce Russell joyce.russell@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2222 nwitimes.com

VALPARAISO | Porter County officials have addressed several deficiencies brought to their attention during a State Board of Accounts audit.

The audits of the Porter County Board of Commissioners and Porter County Memorial Opera House, while completed this summer, were released this past week. The audits looked at the financial records for the 2011 calendar year.

The SBOA cited the county for commingling E-911 fees, questionable E-911 expenditures, questionable public purchases and the service of a county employee also serving as a contractor for the county.

County Attorney Betty Knight said all the issues have been addressed.

The audit cited Porter County for depositing E-911 landline and wireless phone fees into one account, not two as required by law at the time. It also cited the E-911 department for purchasing office supplies and lockers for dispatchers from the funds.

Knight said those incidents occurred under the previous E-911 administration and that the new E-911 director, John Jokantas, who took over the department about a year ago, has corrected those issues.

Jokantas told Knight in an email that a general fund account was established for the 2012 budget which allows for the purchase of supplies from a budgeted fund instead of from the surcharge funds.

He also told Knight the wireless and landline funds were split in the 2012 budget and since then, the state has changed the law, effective July 1, 2012, that allows only one fund.

The audit was also critical of the purchase of $150,145 in audio equipment for the Memorial Opera House. While the purchases were completed through three different invoices, the vendor was paid for all three purchases on one date. The audio upgrade was not bid and a contract for the project was not awarded, according to the audit, adding the purchases may have been artificially divided to circumvent the states small purchase law.

Brian Schafer, former business director of the Opera House, stated in a letter to the SBOA the audio upgrades where completed over a span of several years and the project had been presented several times in public meetings. Schafer, who left the position shortly after providing his official response to the state, said the purchases were done "with the best of intentions and ultimately saving the county a significant amount of money."

Schafer was the subject of another criticism by the state which questioned a potential conflict of interest by paying Schafer as a county employee for his management of the Porter County Expo Center and contracting with Next Level Productions, a company partly owned by Schafer, to manage the Opera House operations.

Porter County Commissioner President John Evans said the Internal Revenue Service advised the county the pay Schafer in this method for his dual roles, but the SBOA disagreed.

Schafer resigned his positions with the county shortly after writing the response to the SBOA to take another job. Knight said that issue is now a moot point as the two positions, which are now manned by interim appointments, will be filled by two separate people.

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About Portage

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(219) 762-5425

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