DCI investigating irregular purchases at Cascade County Sheriff’s Office

Recently, the Cascade County Auditor noted irregularities with regard to some purchases by members of the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office, according to a release from County Attorney Josh Racki.

The auditor reported the matter to the County Commission, which consulted the Cascade County Attorney’s Office who referred the matter to the Division of Criminal Investigation of the Montana Department of Justice.

DCI assigned an agent to investigate. Once the investigation is finalized, DCI will report its finding to the County Attorney.

Should the outcome of the investigation support the filing of criminal charges, the matter has been referred to the Montana Attorney General’s Office for review.

Because this matter involves an ongoing criminal investigation neither Cascade County or DCI are unable to release more information or respond to inquiries at this time.

The types of purchases, amounts and dates of purchases in question have not been released.

The Electric inquired in March after hearing rumors of an investigation at CCSO regarding the mishandling of funds and the spokesman for the Montana Department of Justice at the time said, “DCI is not involved, nor has any knowledge of an investigation you mentioned.”

The Clerk and Recorders Office audits and approves the county’s accounts payable claims. The clerk and recorder is a consolidated position with the auditor, meaning Rina Fontana Moore is the elected official over all of those areas of county government.

Several people work in the auditors division and it tracks every penny spent, Moore said, with the exception of payroll. That includes checking monthly credit card bills from anyone with a county issued account; mileage and per diem for travel on county business; reviewing all purchase orders for items over $5,000 and expenses of those values also go before the commission for approval.

About 10 years ago, the Aging Services department was buying materials and equipment on their own and it resulted in a number of major problems.

Moore said that as a result, the county created a centralized accounting system, meaning there are accountants in the major departments that aren’t housed in the main county building. That includes CCSO, City County Health Department, Expo Park and others. Those accountants report directly to Moore.

That system has allowed staff in Moore’s office to flag financial issues including those that led to the Lisa Bracco investigation in 2013-2014.

State law grants the county auditor the authority to review county finances and approve or disapprove payments, as well as investigate expenditures.

Moore said her office can walk into any department at any time and inspect their financials and count cash on hand to verify amounts match documentation. Her office will be counting cash on hand in the county treasurer’s vault at the end of the year when it changes over to a new treasurer.

Moore’s office flagged the initial purchases at CCSO, but she said she’s also unable to release any further details related to the investigation.

In September, the County Commission approved a contract with Wipfli LLC, which has a Great Falls office, for auditing services from July 2018 through June 2019. Those audits look more broadly at county finances and the policies and procedures to ensure the county is complying with federal, state and local laws and adhering to the generally accepted accounting principals issued by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board.