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Forensic audit shows systemic problems in Marlin finances

Posted at 5:30 PM, May 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-01 19:22:25-04

MARLIN, TX — The initial forensic audit report is in on the City of Marlin.

Last fall, a standard audit turned up several irregularities.

Now, we know $2 million has gone missing from Marlin, in what, for now, looks more like sloppy bookkeeping than an intentional act.

The City of Marlin will soon see big changes in how it handles taxpayers money.

It’s all a result of a long-awaited forensic audit of the city’s books.

Helen Hunt paid utility bills to the City of Marlin for years, and never could understand why city workers knew so little about where that money went.

”No one knew how much money there was or wasn't in accounts,” she said.

Now, a just-released forensic audit shows discrepancies to the tune of $2 million in the Marlin City budget.

The money is believed to be misplaced and not stolen.

City councilman Scotty Henderson and two other council members started pushing for this audit during the last administration, and finally got it when Mayor Carolyn Lofton took office.

”It was very important because you needed to know exactly where your books were. Why kick the can down the road? We needed to get everything straight,” said Henderson, Marlin's Mayor Pro Tempore.

Among the findings in the forensic audit from Houston's Stewart & Hurst firm; Duplicate invoices and disbursements, incomplete bank statements, discrepancies in water payments, and no consistent tracking of receipts, deposits and disbursements.

The firm recommends strict, new, financial controls, uniform invoicing, a new policy for bank deposits, and monthly reconciliation of bank statements.

Auditor Bill Stewart will work with Marlin for free to help institute those new financial controls.

Why?

Turns out, he has family ties to Marlin, through a great-grandfather who lived here back in the town's heyday.

Henderson says with better control of its finances, Marlin can spend taxpayer money more wisely as city leaders will know how much money's in what account.

”You've got to get your books straight number one. You don't know who you can hire, you don't know what you can buy, and that's where it all starts you've got to grow from there."

That's good news to taxpayers like Helen Hunt who say seeing their tax money at work, instead of it disappearing, will help everyone.

”It's about time," she said of the coming changes.

City leaders hope that with a firmer financial footing, they can get more done on some of the many projects, like roads, that Marlin desperately needs.