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County board to discuss audit findings and opening prayer; make budget cuts

By Travis DeNeal
updated: 1/24/2018 11:39 AM

SALINE COUNTY -- County board members plan to discuss findings of an audit of County Clerk and Recorder Kim Buchanan's office Thursday, make budget cuts and also hear a request to cease starting meetings with a prayer.

In early September, the board approved spending up to $30,000 to pay for a forensic audit of Buchanan's office. Some board members had cited concerns about what they said were missing or mismanaged funds handled by Buchanan's office.

Buchanan has said there is no money missing from county coffers.

Much of the argument stems from a change the Saline County Board made to the way certain funds collected by the county clerk and recorder's office are distributed.

At one time, 70 percent of certain fees were earmarked for an "automation" fund. That fund is used for the updating of record-keeping equipment and related expenses. The remaining 30 percent went to the county's General Fund.

In 2016, though, citing a budget shortfall, the county board voted to change the way money from those fees was appropriated. It reversed the percentages, essentially.

County board members said at the time that state laws concerning money for automation funds was outdated and created a little-used glut of cash in the automation fund at the expense of the General Fund.

Buchanan has said since that time the county's actions changing the way the automation fund is funded exceeded the county's authority. Because she said she will not act in opposition of state laws, she has continued to distribute the funds prior to the board's 2016 action.

Board members also have cited issues with payments for employee benefits, incorrect payroll deductions and some employee paychecks not being available on pay dates as other issues stemming from the county clerk's office.

According to Thursday's county board agenda, the initial findings of the forensic audit are slated for discussion and possible action.

Meanwhile, at the same meeting, according to the agenda, cuts to the sheriff's office, the county clerk's office and the Emergency Management Agency office likely will be made in anticipation of the county posting its annual budget. There also will be action to call a special board meeting Tuesday to display the 2017-18 budget.

In addition, a new business item concerning the county board's custom of beginning each meeting with a prayer is on the agenda.

According to the agenda, "Chairman Jay Williams to address a letter received on Jeremy Stroud's behalf (Saline County Clerk Kim Buchanan's first deputy) to cease prayer at the beginning of County Board meetings" is featured under new business. The agenda also states that there will be "Requests received from public to comment on above letter."

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Saline County Courthouse.