Jail auditors call for changes

FRONT ROYAL – An outside audit of the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail has found discrepancies between bank statements for fiscal year 2015 and the authority’s general ledger, the record that summarizes an organization’s financial transactions.

A letter from auditors presented at a meeting of the jail authority Thursday contains recommendations for tightening safeguards against what auditors called “strange,” “unusual,” or “suspicious” items.

The auditors said they found the jail’s cash balance was “understated by $32,506” and “adjustments were required to correct the authority’s general ledger cash accounts. Had the discrepancies discovered when reconciling the bank statements been investigated and corrected, this error would have been caught and resolved the month it occurred.”

The audit comes four months after the jail’s finance director, Kevin Glascock, resigned without explanation. Jail authority members have continued to remain silent since then on the reasons for Glascock’s resignation. The jail has since hired a new finance director, its third since it opened in July 2014.

The auditors from the firm of Robinson, Farmer, and Cox Associates of Staunton proposed that bank statements delivered by mail “be forwarded directly to the superintendent or his designee (who) is independent of the bank reconciliation process. This individual would review the bank statements and canceled checks for any strange or unusual items and investigate these items should any be found. Documentation of their review should be made on the face of the bank statement. We feel that this suggestion will further enhance the checks and balances necessary for strong controls over cash.”

The auditors also recommended that “all bank accounts should be reconciled monthly to the general ledger and that all suspicious reconciling items be promptly investigated and adjusted with adequate explanations.”

The audit termed the deficiencies found in the general ledger and bank statements “significant.”

Doug Stanley, chairman of the jail authority, said he considered “a lot” of the audit to be “procedural in nature to make sure adequate oversight and review is in place.”

Stanley was noncommittal when asked whether the findings and wording in the audit was any reflection on one or both of the previous finance directors.

“Without specific knowledge of what they’re referring to, it would be pure speculation on my part,” Stanley said of the auditors.

Superintendent William Wilson said his staff is beginning to put some of the audit’s recommendations into effect. Wilson said turnover in the finance director’s position contributed to the lack of safeguards identified in the audit.

“Some of that was done because we were short handed for a while,” Wilson said.

Other proposals in the audit include management review of the payroll report for each period and documenting the review of the report. The audit said such a practice would impose “greater control” over payroll processing.

In other actions, the authority passed a resolution opposing three bills in the 2016 legislative session that Wilson said would have a “negative effect” on the jail. But Wilson failed to persuade other members of the authority to also oppose two bills sponsored by Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock.

Wilson said Gilbert’s bills would require those not deemed indigent to post a bond “on almost every offense.”

Such a law would fuel a surge in the jail population by defendants forced behind bars until they can post a secure bond, Wilson said.

In written comments accompanying the meeting agenda, Wilson said Gilbert’s bills “are clearly aimed at supporting the bail bond services and (make) no other sense.”

Several members of the authority proposed voting to oppose all six bills Wilson discussed, but Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy C. Carter said the authority should hear from Gilbert about his legislation before grouping it with the other bills that were under consideration.

Gilbert said in a telephone interview from Richmond that Wilson had not spoken to him about the bills.

“I’ve called him before and never managed to get a call back,” Gilbert said. “Maybe if we had a better line of communications, we could avoid these kinds of misunderstandings.”

Gilbert denied that the bills would increase populations at RSW or other jails. He also said he did not collaborate with bail bondsmen in writing the bills.

Gilbert said he had already decided to drop the bills during this legislative session after speaking earlier to representatives of the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association. He said the bills will be sent to the Virginia State Crime Commission for study.

Warren County Sheriff Daniel T. McEathron told other members of the authority that local law enforcement, jail and emergency communications departments in the area are seeking permission from the state to take control of the criminal justice training academy in Middletown.

The academy is a satellite facility of the Rappahannock Regional Criminal Justice Academy headquartered in Fredericksburg.

McEathron said the state Department of Criminal Justice Services must approve the takeover and has already signaled its support, but wants a letter of recommendation from leading officials in each jurisdiction served by the Middletown campus.

McEathron said a local takeover of the Middletown facility would allow local public safety agencies to control budget and spending decisions and eliminate the long trips to attend annual meetings at the Fredericksburg headquarters.

McEathron said the takeover will not require any additional money from the state or local governments.

“We know we can function as our own academy,” McEathron said.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com