116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Atkins audit uncovers misspending, lax oversight
City Council requested audit after city clerk resigned in 2020
Over $100,000 was wrongly spent or went uncollected under the watch of a former city clerk of Atkins, the State Auditor reported in a new special investigation requested by city officials.
The office of Auditor Rob Sand said it identified $51,598.59 of improper disbursements, $21,255.38 of unsupported disbursements and $27,941.53 of uncollected utility billings.
“However, because City records were not sufficiently maintained, it was not possible to determine if additional amounts were improperly disbursed or if additional utility transactions were improperly recorded or not properly billed and/or collected,” the audit reported.
The Atkins City Council requested the investigation, Sand’s office said, because of concerns about financial transactions under City Clerk Amber Bell, who began in 2015 and resigned under a separation agreement in late 2020.
Beyond findings that Bell mishandled money, the audit revealed that members of the council had lax financial polices and didn’t routinely justify or review the spending of tax money — including agreeing to allow a contractor who cleaned city buildings to stay on the city’s dental insurance plan even though she wasn’t an employee.
“Had City officials developed and implemented policies and procedures to segregate duties, review bank reconciliations, required and reviewed utility reconciliations, and maintained supporting documentation, City officials may have identified undeposited utility collections and improper disbursements earlier,” the audit reported. “In addition, the implementation of controls may have reduced the opportunity for the City’s funds to be improperly disbursed or not properly deposited.”
The audit found that Bell was paid too much in salary and overtime and made $2,035.75 in improper purchases with a city credit card, “which included items such as a $50.00 purchase from Nail World in Cedar Rapids for a manicure, food and restaurant purchases, and video on demand purchases.”
The audit questioned why the city spent $405 on memberships to Sam’s Club.
“Based on our review of the City’s disbursements, the City does not make a significant number of purchases from Sam’s Club. In addition, according to City officials we spoke with, the membership is periodically used by City employees for personal purchases which are paid for with their personal funds,” the audit found. “Because the City does not make significant purchases for City operations from Sam’s Club, the public purpose served by the annual membership fees is not apparent.”
And, the audit found, the City Council allowed holiday bonuses for some of its employees, even though there was no policy calling for it. Bell received a total of $645 in bonuses in 2015 and 2016, the audit found. Five other employees got them also.
“We determined the bonuses were awarded with the City Council’s knowledge and approval. However, the City Council did not document the public purpose served by the payments,” the audit reported.