Accounting Miscues In 29 Palms Cemetery District Invite DA & GJ Scrutiny

TWENTYNINE PALMS — The San Bernardino County Local Agency Formation Commission’s routine review of operations in the Twentynine Palms Public Cemetery District discovered some accounting irregularities that have now been brought to the attention of the   district attorney’s public integrity unit and the grand jury.
The Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), which oversees jurisdictional issues throughout the county, conducts community service reviews every five years. On May 7, 2012, LAFCO executive officer Kathleen Rollings-McDonald, assistant executive officer Samuel Martinez and project manager Michael Tuerpe delivered a report relating to the various agencies serving Twentynine Palms and the surrounding area. In carrying out that portion of the review pertaining to the cemetery district, Rollings-McDonald, Martinez and Tuerpe were unable to find any district records updated since the 2008/09 fiscal year. Their report states that the district did not complete audits in a statutory time frame and prepared its budgets without auditing or verifying the numbers utilized.
According to LAFCO, the most recent budget information provided to state and county controllers had not been adopted by the district board at a noticed public hearing. These shortcomings qualify as “a prime indicator of governance challenges,” according to Rollings-McDonald, Martinez and Tuerpe.
While district staff and the board are now racing to redress those shortcomings, LAFCO has referred the matter to the district attorney’s office and the grand jury.
At the district’s regularly scheduled board meeting on May 17, cemetery board secretary Casey Dobler provided board members with an agenda packet containing correspondence from LAFCO dated May 9 belatedly informing the board that the LAFCO board on May 16 was to hold a hearing at which the May 7 report would be reviewed.
The board on May 17 resolved to facilitate the review and audits of the district’s books that would bring it into compliance with standards applicable to governmental special districts by early next month.

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