An unknown amount of money taken in by the Salt Palace box office is unaccounted for because employees failed to follow safeguard policies set last year after an embezzlement scandal, the Salt Lake County auditor's office said Wednesday.
But county officials insist there is no evidence that any money has been stolen from the box office or that any money is missing, and one commissioner called the auditor's office "unprofessional" for its handling of the problem.David L. Beck, chief deputy county auditor, revealed the box office problem when he asked commissioners why they had not placed a letter outlining the concerns of the auditor's office following its review of the box office on the Wednesday's commission meeting agenda.
The letter, addressed to commissioners and signed by County Auditor Craig Sorensen, said box office internal controls were ignored, cash receipts were not reconciled as required, daily deposits of receipts were not being made and that $250,000 cash had been allowed to accumulate in the box office safe.
The letter said the auditor's findings "indicate a serious disregard for generally accepted accounting procedures, countywide policies and procedures and specifically written Salt Palace procedures."
"These are the very same inadequacies that led to the former problems at the Salt Palace," the letter said.
"It would be hard to imagine an area of county government that has received more adverse publicity."
The alleged violations of policy occurred during Sept. 16-26, Beck said, although some may have been going on for a longer time.
"Our concern is that actions similar to those of the past are still going on," Beck told commissioners. "Although policies were set, they have not been followed."
Beck said each day cashiers are required to close out the registers and reconcile receipts with the box office supervisor. For the 10-day period in September, that wasn't done. Box office employees tried to go back later and do the reconciliations, Beck said.
"We don't know how much should have been there," he said. "Some days they have overages, some days they have shortages, some days those amount to hundreds of dollars. There are policies in place that would leave an audit trail if followed. But they weren't and that is the problem."
Commissioner Bart Barker responded angrily that the auditor should have allowed the Salt Palace to respond to the problems before making them public.
"The manner in which the auditor has acted here appears to be unprofessional," Barker said.
"I take exception to that, commissioner," Beck replied.
Kerry Steadman, associate director of the county's administrative services department, said Salt Palace officials discovered the problems about three weeks ago and asked the auditor's office to get involved in the matter.
"That was a time when we had the circus and the Ice Capades in the Salt Palace, and in the crunch of time people made a bad decision to take care of the public first instead of reconciling the accounts. We've made it clear that policy must be followed to the letter."
It's doubtful anyone will be fired, but severe disciplining of the responsible employees will take place, Steadman said.
Last year, former Salt Palace manager Doug Knudsen was sentenced to 30 days in jail, and box office manager Lucille Martin given probation and fines for their part in a scheme to return unsold hockey tickets to the box office for cash refunds.
Eight other employees were originally charged during a related investigation, but all charges were later dropped. New policies, including daily reconciliations and deposits, were begun following the scandal.