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Treasurer tackles state audit report

The Washington State Auditor continued to be concerned about the Island County Treasurer's Office in 2001.

In an audit report released Monday covering calendar year 2001, the state auditor described as "unresolved" two previous findings about the treasurer's office:

1. The absence of strong internal controls in the treasurer's office creates the potential for misappropriation of public funds.

2. The county treasurer did not maintain adequate internal controls over property tax receivable adjustments.

The state audits the county annually, and other than the unresolved issues with the treasurer's office, everything was fine last year.

"We identified no conditions significant enough to report as a finding," the report states.

The unresolved findings date back several years, under the administration of former treasurer Maxine Sauter. The findings provided campaign fodder last fall for challenger Linda Riffe, who defeated Sauter in the November election. Sauter died a week after the election.

Riffe assumed her duties after Sauter's death, rather than waiting until January. Since then, she said Monday, her office has worked with the state auditor's office in an effort to resolve the two negative findings.

"I met with the auditors shortly after I took office," Riffe said. "They thought there'd be a change and they wanted to give me the opportunity to make these changes."

Riffe said she has instigated weekly staff meetings and that three weeks ago her office implemented a new cash management policy, which will better safeguard cash.

"Only one person with a key has access," she said.

In the past, multiple office employees had access to cash. Riffe also had new keys made, which hadn't been done despite high turnover in the office.

Riffe said the problem of inadequate controls over property tax receivable adjustments is also being addressed. She plans to inform the public of changes in a quarterly report in March.

"I want to communicate with the citizens," she said. "We have lots and lots of challenges."

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