The Tulare cemetery council can transmit the audit


Last fall, the cemetery council narrowly voted to consider a forensic audit, but only garnered enough votes by limiting the scope of the audit to a single year, 2017-2018, instead for a period of five years. Administrator Charlie Ramos joined Aguilar on the ad hoc committee tasked with collecting quotes for the audit, which said in March that he had contacted three companies and none of them were interested in taking in charge of the project for the controversial board.

At his October 28 meeting, Aguilar said he found at least two companies, and possibly a third, willing to perform the forensic audit. He presented the board with a citation from McKenzie Forensic Auditors, Inc. to investigate fraudulent payroll claims, management embezzlement, whether management correctly reported all monetary transactions to the board, and whether management authorized a former employed to live on district property without rent. Based in Hollywood, California, McKenzie has been a leading provider of forensic accounting services for 25 years, according to its website. The cost of the annual audit is $ 15,500.

Chairman of the board, Xavier Avila, said he was still in favor of having a forensic audit performed, but not unless it was closer to the $ 10,000 range, which he said in March. This is because the audit could cost more than the amount that would have been misappropriated or overpaid.

The need for the audit dates back to 2017, when the cemetery was in turmoil, both politically and financially. Aguilar, who was appointed to the board in September 2017, shared evidence with the Tulare County Grand Jury and the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office in 2019 detailing how he believed former District Manager Marilyn Correia and her husband, former grounds manager Steve Cunningham, resigned within a week of each other and got paid for unused vacation they didn’t earn.

The alleged misappropriation of unearned payroll could be as low as $ 10,000 and only up to $ 15,000.

Ramos agreed, saying the audit might be more difficult than it is worth.

“If it’s $ 5,000 [allegedly stolen] are we going to spend $ 15,000 to find out if that happened? Ramos said. “Going back and digging up bones is not my goal. “

Aguilar argued that the alleged stolen money in 2017 may have just been the start of the search for other missing funds. He used the example of the Visalia Public Cemetery District embezzlement case against his former director. In 2016, the annual audit of the Visalia cemetery found that approximately $ 340,000 had been underestimated in the finances of the district. Information was found on when longtime accountant Dona Shores left the cemetery district. The district reported the missing money to the Visalia Police Department and hired an accounting firm to perform a five-year forensic audit. A year and a half after the audit, the Visalia Police Department arrested Shores for embezzling $ 1.2 million from fiscal 2012 to 2016.

Deputy County Attorney Matt Pierce, acting as District Attorney, said that even if the audit revealed fraud, the District would not be able to do anything with this information because of the delay. prescription had expired. Pierce said the status for civil charges expired in September 2020 and for criminal charges in September 2021.

“I don’t know how much time you want to spend on it,” Pierce said.

Avila cautioned Aguilar against expanding the scope of the audit, which would increase the cost to the point that the majority of the board would vote against it. He compared forensic audit to fishing and said if you don’t limit yourself to where the most fish are, you are wasting a lot of time dragging the lake.

“Would I spend $ 5,000 or $ 10,000 to do some fishing?” Avila said. “May be.”

Trustees Steve Presant and Jim Pennington didn’t seem interested in pursuing an audit with a price tag of $ 15,000 and the lawyer seemed to agree.

“My advice would be not to do it,” Pierce said.


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