One Salt Palace box office employee will be put on three-day unpaid leave of absense as a disciplinary measure after discovery that safeguard policies for handling cash were not followed for 10 days in September.
Meanwhile, County Commission Chairman Bart Barker expressed concern the public may perceive that nothing has changed at the county-owned Salt Palace since last year's embezzlement scandle, which caused the county to implement new box-office bookkeeping procedures."The policies are clear and there's no excuse for not following them," Barker said. "This is important, but it's not on the same level as when there was dishonesty involved. The fact that the problem was found and a response made so quickly is a major improvement."
However on Wednesday, Barker and other county managers were angered that the county auditor's office disclosed the bookkeeping problems.
Auditors say they made the disclosure because commissioners did not respond quickly enough to their findings during a review of box office operations.
Salt Palace management is still preparing its formal response for county commissioners. That response is expected next week, and Barker and others felt the auditor's office, as a matter of professional courtesy, should have waited until the response was complete before making the situation public.
The auditor's office revealed that between Sept. 16-26, internal box office accounting controls were ignored, cash receipts were not being deposited daily as required, on one occasion $250,000 in cash was allowed to accumulate in the box office safe and management oversite was not occuring.
County officials say no evidence has been uncovered that any money is missing. But auditors say such evidence doesn't exist because the prescribed bookkeeping procedures, designed to leave a trail for auditors to track, were not followed.
Auditors maintain the box office books were so poorly kept they have no way of knowing how much cash was unaccounted for during period when controls were ignored, and thus it's not possible to determine if cash is missing.
The name of the suspended employee, a box office supervisor, has not been released pending a continuing investigation by Salt Palace management. The employee has 10 days to appeal the suspension, which was handed down last week.
Other employees may also be reprimanded, but no firings are expected, said Administrative Services director John W. Rosenthal.
During the 10 days in September, box office employees did not balance daily receipts and reconcile cash shortages or overages, said chief deputy county auditor David L. Beck.
With two major events - a circus and an ice show - booked into the Salt Palace during that period, box office employees were swamped by the demands of ticket sales and fell behind in bookkeeping duties, Rosenthal said.
Box office management informed Salt Palace management the first week in October that they needed help in catching up bookkeeping chores, and Salt Palace management recognized the problem and asked the county auditor to step in about Oct. 11, he said.
"There is no evidence these things happened at any other time than during that 10-day period," Barker said. "But there is no excuse, either. You would think especially at that facility, with its history, people would have the common sense to comply with procedures."
Last year, former Salt Palace manager Doug Knudsen was sentenced to 30 days in jail, and former 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.