Archive for Thursday, February 26, 2004

Library audit uncovers questionable purchases

Accountant: Total hits nearly $20,000

February 26, 2004

A Leavenworth accountant's audit of Tonganoxie Public Library books shows $19,887 in questionable purchases and bank account withdrawals, according to court testimony.

Leavenworth County District Judge Frederick Stewart presided Friday over a court hearing designed to determine how much restitution will be required of former library director Beckie Borella.

Last June, Borella, 45, was charged with one count misuse of public funds. Four months later, she pled no contest to the charge.

But Borella and prosecutors have been in a dispute over how much of the library's money that Borella actually converted for her own use.

Borella's restitution hearing got under way on Friday, and later was continued until 11 a.m. March 5, at which time the judge is expected to issue a ruling.

Leavenworth accountant Steve Wagner conducted a court-ordered investigation of library credit card use, payroll and the library's checking account. He testified on Friday that he found questionable purchases or missing funds from bank cash deposits, a checking account, a savings account, a B&J Country Mart charge account, and credit cards from Office Depot, Wal-Mart and MBNA credit cards.

The largest total came from the MBNA card with which $6,931.51 allegedly was used. Wagner also reported $4,962.70 for personal use with the Wal-Mart credit card.

Borella said she purchased a palm pilot from Office Depot for library use, but was not satisfied with it and returned the item to the store. But the Office Depot credit card showed the purchase of two palm pilots.

"I not only didn't like it, but I would not buy two," Borella said.

The audit showed $250 taken from petty cash -- $100 taken twice and $50 on another occasion. Borella said that much cash never was available at one time. She said she and two other library officials had access to that money.

Wagner said the audit also showed Borella misused $2,501.29 in the library's checking account, but Borella said much of that money was used for required trips to continuing education workshops offered by the Northeast Kansas Library Association. She said some of the checks were for reimbursements, such as mileage, lodging and two meals a day.

Borella did admit two items were misappropriations with the MBNA card -- an airline ticket for $169 that her daughter used and $553.16 charged at Casey's.

"That was a mistake, but it's mine," Borella said of the ticket.

As for the Casey's charges, Borella thought a man she previously was living with misused the card.

He since has left the country, she said.

When Borella was asked to resign last year, she was put on leave, but continued to pay herself, Wagner said. She worked just five days in the monthly pay period, but paid herself for the full 22 days.

Borella said she paid herself for unused vacation.

The library previously allowed employees to be paid in advance, but that practice has stopped.

"Governmentally, it's illegal to prepay an employee," Wagner said, noting it sometimes occurs in private business.

All of Borella's purchases required two library board members' signatures, but Leavenworth County Attorney Frank Kohl said the system didn't have any checks and balances.

"It wasn't a very good system," Borella said.

Regardless of Stewart's decision on restitution, Borella must pay $1,825 for the accountant's audit.

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