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County auditors advise altering Clerk's Office

County auditors warn in a new report that one employee in the Erie County Clerk's Office has had too much oversight over financial transactions.

A report issued by County Comptroller David J. Shenk recommends that County Clerk Chris Jacobs split up some of the duties that have been performed by the finance deputy to ensure better controls over accounting in the office.

"No one person should have control over all phases of a transaction," the Comptroller's Office found after reviewing how the Clerk's Office handles financial transactions. "It is especially crucial that finance-related duties be separated so that if controls are circumvented, errors or fraudulent activity may be detected on a timely basis, and corrective action may be initiated."

The comptroller's staff also recommended that the Clerk's Office use double-entry accounting software that would provide an audit trail.

Shortly after he took office, Jacobs asked the Comptroller's Office to review how financial transactions are handled in the Clerk's Registrar Division.

The county clerk also asked the Comptroller's Office to look at how documents are handled in the Land Records Division in light of a backlog of unopened mail and unreturned real estate documents he found when he took office. The Clerk's Office has since worked through the backlog of unopened mail.

In his response to the comptroller's review that was issued Friday, Jacobs said his office will take steps to split up the financial duties "to provide assurances against unauthorized transactions or fraudulent activity." He said he also plans to put in place a "multilevel approval and supervisory review of all financial transactions" and said he would work with the Comptroller's Office to purchase accounting software for the Clerk's Office.

Jacobs also objected to the fact that the Comptroller's Office had the former finance deputy from the Clerk's Office help prepare the review. That employee, a certified public accountant, was "released of his duties" in the Clerk's Office in March and now works in the Comptroller's Office.

Shenk said that the former finance deputy "was not involved in the financial internal controls findings in any way."

The comptroller's report was completed after staff members conducted a "limited review" of the internal controls and operating procedures in the Clerk's Office. It was not an audit and did not review the actual accounting work done in the Clerk's Office.