The state Comptroller's Office recently audited the Bainbridge Town Justice court and found deposits were not made in a timely manner, the justices did not compile monthly reports and there was an excess balance in the account.
Auditors reviewed court financial documents from Jan. 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020, the report said. During that period, the court received $140,633 from fines and fees paid for 913 vehicle and traffic tickets. Justice Christopher Thurlby received 472 collections totaling $70,980, and Justice Mark Davis received 441 collections totaling $69,653.
The report said auditors compared the court documents, the state Department of Motor Vehicles data and 1,316 Office of the State Comptroller’s Justice Court Fund reports to see if there were any discrepancies. Auditors found the court clerk properly recorded the paid tickets.
During the audit, there were 93 pending traffic tickets that hadn't been paid yet and auditors said the court was actively seeking payment.
Auditors compared the 913 collections to the court's bank records and the JCF monthly reports and the court clerk properly recorded fines paid by cash or money order. “However, the clerk was unaware that she was not obtaining the information for all credit card payments from the Court’s online payment system,” the report said. This was due to the timing of when the clerk checked the program that lists credit card payments and when the payments were made.
In a letter of response, Thurlby and Davis said “The instructional error in how to run this report has been corrected. The audit uncovered an important error that could lead to unresolved traffic tickets and unidentified funds, we are grateful for the audit findings. The auditor's recommendation has been acted on and the report doubled checked at each month end bank reconciliation.”
Auditors said town justices deposited 220 collections totaling $35,771 after the three-day limit. The justices responded that court was held one day a week and they deposited the money weekly. They said they now deposit the money in a timely manner.
The report said “The Justices did not perform bank reconciliations and monthly accountabilities. As a result, six collections that were not correctly deposited were not identified. In addition, we found their combined cash balances exceeded liabilities by $4,129. The Justices cannot account for the source of this money.”
The justices' letter of response said “The statement that the justices cannot account for the source of this money is true as it relates to the original source.” It said a justice left in 2018 and closed a bank account but didn't state where the money belonged.
The comptroller's office issued a note about this statement by the justices, “The cash balances (excess funds) that exceeded liabilities for both Justices fluctuated during our audit scope period. This indicates that these excess funds did not originate only from funds turned over from a previous Justice.”
The justices said in their letter once they started to compile monthly reports, they noticed three occasions where credit card payments using "n-court," an online payment system, were deposited into the bank “without any documented source provided by n-court in their reporting download.”