Missing money cue for agencies to strengthen safeguards

Any agency that receives state money is required to have a proper checks-and-balances system. Regrettably, too many small-town entities do not. Instead, they rely on a trust factor that too often has been violated.

The Hope Volunteer Fire Department is the latest victim to suffer such as rude awakening.

An Indiana State Board of Accounts audit has determined that former Hope Volunteer Fire Department treasurer Mathew Mathis took more than $40,000 that he was not permitted to take. He did so by issuing checks to himself without supporting documentation, making more than $31,000 in undocumented cash withdrawals and failing to deposit money fire department accounts after fundraisers and other events, according to the audit.

Now the state wants Mathis to pay $48,252, which includes the State Board of Accounts’ expenses of $4,611 to perform its audit.

While the Hope fire department is a victim in this matter, it also must take some of the blame not having adequate controls in place. That failure in safeguards is similar to the missing-money cases uncovered in Rockcreek Township, Clay Township, Wayne Township and the town of Jonesville.

The Hope fire department’s situation, as well as those of the aforementioned small-town governments, should serve as a wakeup call for all local government and emergency agencies that deal with public funds. They must have strong safeguards in place regarding how money is appropriated. Prohibiting one person free reign to handle money is a good place to start.

With all the examples of malfeasance in Bartholomew County, a local government or organization will have no excuse in the future should money from their coffers be found missing.