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Court hears finalized forensic audit report necessitated by theft of inmate funds

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Polk County LogoBy Emily Banks Wooten
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A finalized forensic audit report for proof of loss completed by BDO USA LLP was presented to the Polk County Commissioners Court during its regular meeting Tuesday. The forensic audit was necessitated following an investigation earlier this year that revealed the misappropriation of inmate funds for personal use by an employee of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. Presenting the report on behalf of BDO USA LLP were Jesse Daves and Eric Cothran.

“The scope was to engage to provide forensic accounting services with the ultimate goal of having proof of loss that given the evidence could be submitted to the insurance carrier, which I understand has been done,” Daves said.

“Our analysis focused on the activities of Ms. Jessica David, the former administrative assistant for Polk County’s Jail. The period that we focused on was January of 2020 to March of 2023 and we calculated a loss to Polk County of $42,559.57,” Daves said.

“Ms. David began working for Polk County as early as 2010 and served as administrative assistant for the jail since at least October of 2018. Her responsibility included very specifically preparing deposits of funds obtained from inmates during arrest and maintaining that inmate balance with the software used by the jail,” Daves said.

“During the 2022 fiscal year audit, we understood during the process that the external auditors had identified some anomalous transactions and estimated at the time that as much as $43,000 was missing from the inmate bank account and that when they inquired, there was not adequate explanations to be given for these discrepancies by Ms. David. Looking back, that might have been one of the tipping points that prompted investigation into her activities,” Daves said.

“The Polk County Sheriff’s Office contacted the Texas Rangers on Feb. 27, 2023 and during the investigation with the Texas Rangers we understand Ms. David admitted to taking money from the Polk County Jail and that she was arrested on March 10, 2023 and ultimately charged with theft of property by a public servant,” Daves said.

The Court also received a report on the General Land Office monies awarded to Polk County for the Hurricane Harvey Regional Mitigation Program, including $428,244.68 for Martin Luther King Drive, $533,226.06 for Union Springs Road, $215,625 for Damascus Stryker Water Corporation, and $410,904.26 for Dallardsville Water.

A bid of $152,500 for the Corrigan Community Center located at 103 Hospital St. in Corrigan was approved by the Court. Also approved was an order regulating certain fireworks in the unincorporated areas of the county during the December holiday period.

An amendment to the Rural Connectivity Project Deployment Agreement with Eastex Telephone Cooperative was also approved. The amendment will relocate a portion of the project with only a few houses to a section containing a full neighborhood which will provide more capacity for the county and for Eastex Telephone.

As no bids were received regarding bid 2024-11 for the purchase of two vehicles for Precinct 4 Road and Bridge utilizing the American Rescue Plan Act funds and Precinct 4 fund balance, the Court approved rebidding the item.

In personnel matters, the Court approved a personnel management system update in which the 258th Judicial District has requested the creation of a new position, a court recorder, which will replace the previously authorized position of court reporter.

The Court also received and recorded the personnel action forms submitted by elected officials since the last meeting, reviewed and approved personnel action forms submitted by department heads since the last meeting and review authorized emergency hirings, including two at the jail and one at the sheriff’s office.

Two requests from Polk County Criminal District Attorney Shelly Sitton were approved. One was to designate a pre-trial services officer in the DA’s office, with a salary supplement of $18,238 and related personnel expenses to be paid from the pre-trial intervention program fund, and the other was to reclassify $14,455 in DA salaries as county supplement in preparation of receiving rural law enforcement grant funds.

Although the Court was slated to consider action on a request to amend the Lone Spur Solar tax abatement agreement and to extend the Polk County Reinvestment Zone-Lone Spur for an additional five-year term, the item was deleted from the agenda.

The replat of Ridge Lake Estates Phase 1 Replat No. 1 was approved.

Fiscal year 2023 budget revisions and amendments, as presented by the county auditor’s office, were approved.

In old business, the Court received a report from the Sexual Assault Response Team as required by Local Government Code Chapter 351.

Items on the consent agenda included:

Approval of the schedules of bills;

Approval of an order designating surplus property;

Reentering into inventory a 2007 Ford F-150 VIN No. 1FTRX12W78FA31264 for maintenance;

Ratifying Amendment No. 3 to the General Land Office Contract No. 20-066-018-C125;

Approval of software as a service agreement with Act!;

Receipt of the county treasurer’s fiscal year 2023 fourth quarter investment report for July through September 2023;

Receipt of the county treasurer’s monthly report for September 2023;

Receipt of the county treasurer’s fiscal year 2023 fourth quarter report for July through September 2023;

Acceptance of a donation to aging services for monthly birthday cakes at each Polk County Senior Center location for the year 2024;

Receipt of a certificate of project completion from Corrigan OSB LLC for the tax abatement agreement dated March 23, 2021; and

Approval of first amendment to amended and restated memorandum of understanding with Piney Wood Lakes Texas Chapter Master Naturalists, the East Texas Electric Cooperative Inc. and Polk County for beneficial management of natural resources at the East Texas Electric Cooperative Hydroelectric Plant Gazebo.

Larry Simmons, a resident of the Yaupon Cove subdivision in Onalaska, apprised the

Court of something he considers a safety concern for both children and adults and that is the Wilson boat ramp in the subdivision that he thinks needs to be shut down.

Polk County Sheriff Byron Lyons opened the meeting with prayer.


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