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Investigator | County office cited for shoddy practices

7:20 PM, Sep 18, 2013   |    comments
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An internal audit of the Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts office shows a history of weakness when it comes to the safeguarding of cash, and keeping proper records.

The audit, released this week, was done at the request of Andrea Rocco, the clerk of courts who was appointed to the office in January by Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald.

It covers the time period of January, 2011 to the end of December of 2012 -- the final year that Gerald Fuerst was the clerk of courts. He retired after holding that position for 37 years.

The most significant findings, according to the audit overseen by Valerie Henry, were in the areas of cash and security controls; fines; fees and forfeitures; and unapplied deposits and bonds.

Specifically, the audit cited the facts that safes did not have a sufficient number of video cameras aimed at them; that the counting of cash was unsupervised; and that cash drawers, whether they had too little or too much cash at the end of the day, weren't reconciled.

It was under such conditions that one employee in the clerk's criminal division stole thousands of dollars in fees and bond forfeiture money taken in by the criminal division.

Mark Lime later pleaded guilty to 37 felony charges, including theft in office.

The duties of the Clerk of Courts office include the filing of court documents, making certified copies and taking payments for court fees and fines.

When Rocco started her job, she said her goal was to make the office more efficient and cost-effective.

Last month she said she requested the audit within weeks of taking office, "Because I recognized that monies we were taking in were not necessarily getting where they needed to go."

The audit offered a huge example of that, which was reported earlier this summer -- it revealed that $20 million in bond refund payments had never been made to the people who were owed that money, from cases that dated back to the mid-1980s.

In June, Fuerst told reporters that he never had a sufficiently large enough staff to notify people who had money owed to them by Cuyahoga County.

WKYC-TV

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