Eldridge, Iowa City Clerk Accused of Misuse of $75k of County Funds

In 2022 officials from the City of Eldridge, IA has some concerns about “spending and “certain financial transactions” processed by former city clerk Donna Benson. They asked the state auditor to review transactions from 2017 through 2022. The auditor’s report covered the period of January of 2017 through October of 2022, not quite 6 years.

Over that period the special investigation found a little over $76k in improper disbursements almost $9k of unsupported disbursements. The $76k included:

  • $42k of personal purchases made with the city’s credit card
  • $1.1k of unauthorized payroll
  • $16k in payments to Benson’s personal credit card
  • $16k in payments to other vendors for personal expenses.

The additional $9k was mostly credit card charges and payments to vendors that could not be conclusively proven to be personal.

The case has been turned over to law enforcement. If the allegations are true, Donna Benson is no criminal mastermind, but $12k a year was a nice little raise. It gets worse. In March of 2022, six months earlier, the state auditor issued a report recommending the city improve segregate duties, reconcile ending cash and investments, and implement a purchasing policy. None of those recommendations were adopted.

The auditor’s special report again recommends strengtheningĀ internal controls, including properly segregating duties, performing independent reviews of bank reconciliations, and ensuring all disbursements are properly supported, approved, and paid in a timely manner.

This is pretty straightforward stuff. If you think it can’t happen in your organization you’ve simply been lucky. But there’s one more fun piece to this. At the bottom of the article is this link to all of the State of Iowa’s Auditor reports. Additionally there is a detailed link for each case including this one. The details are fascinating and the number of investigations is eye opening. Not all of them result in referrals to law enforcement, one case found $151 in improper disbursement for example, but there’s a lot of shenanigans going on.

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