Macon County is in the process of contracting with a forensic auditor to more fully probe into the county’s Board of Elections department. After discovering that more than $50,000 had been embezzled from the department, Board of Elections Director Kim Bishop was placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of a full investigation.
The State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) along with the District Attorney’s Office suggested that Macon County obtain a third party forensic auditor to look into the situation at the Board of Elections. According to County Manager Derek Roland, the county began the search for a forensic auditor immediately following the initiation of the investigation by the SBI and Macon County Sheriff’s Office.
“In speaking with numerous private forensic auditing firms located in North Carolina and Georgia, it quickly became clear that the use of a private auditing firm would be an expensive option,” said Roland. “For example, a firm out of Alpharetta, Ga., gave us estimates as high $19,200 for a review of existing documents, communication of findings and follow up meetings in Macon County as needed. Additional investigation as well as the summary of the firm's analysis was not included in this estimate.”
Shortly after obtaining the estimates, Roland spoke with Senator Jim Davis. “We discussed many things including the substantial costs of hiring a third party forensic auditing firm to look into the situation in the Board of Elections,” said Roland. “Davis then put me in contact with Beth Wood, who is the State Auditor. In my initial conversation with Mrs. Wood, she indicated to me that her office would be willing to come in and perform the suggested forensic audit. As a follow up to our initial discussion, I left a message in Mrs. Wood’s Office on Feb. 5. As of Feb. 18, I had not heard anything back from the office so I called again. After speaking with someone in her office, they assured me Mrs. Wood would be in contact with me this week.”
The Board of Elections budget is already substantially less than anticipated, with a shortfall of nearly $20,000. The additional burden of contracting with a forensic auditor would likely leave the Board of Elections seeking funds from the county. With the help of Davis and the state auditor’s office, Roland hopes state resources will be available to avoid the excessive costs.
The investigation is ongoing and Bishop remains on paid leave. Debbie George is acting as Interim Director for the Board of Elections.