- Associated Press - Monday, February 29, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A state audit released Monday says the Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma “has no policies, procedures, or guidelines governing their credit card purchases” and that the organization put $273,000 worth of travel, gifts, food and party-related expenses on its credit cards in a two-year period.

The findings, part of an investigative audit released by State Auditor & Inspector Gary Jones’ office, states that gifts were purchased for board members between January 2013 and March 2015 in possible violation of the group’s bylaws and articles of association. The gifts included clothing, knives and a gun case purchased for an outgoing board president in 2013.

The audit says some gifts awarded as door prizes, contest prizes and travel and meal expenses did not appear to be necessary to accomplish the purposes of the organization, which operates insurance and risk management services programs and works to improve and upgrade county governments across the state.

The audit also says that some of the organization’s gifts, prizes and transactions were not reported as required by IRS guidelines, which state that clothing not required as a condition of employment as well as cash, gift cards and non-cash prizes won by employees from random drawings at employer-sponsored events are taxable.

The audit was requested by Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, who said in a March 6, 2015, letter to Jones his office had received information “that public funds had been misappropriated by individuals who manage” the organization’s money. The audit says about 88 percent of the group’s funding is from public sources.

On Monday, Prater said a preliminary draft of the audit was turned over to his office on Friday.

“We’re reviewing it to determine what they’re findings are and how to proceed,” Prater said.

An attorney for the organization, Robert McCampbell, said in an email to The Associated Press that board chairman Gary Starns and other officials plan to review the report and correct any deficiencies.

“ACCO has been under new management for the past eleven months and has already corrected many of the issues discussed in the audit report,” Starns is quoted in the email.

The organization fired its executive director less than two weeks after Prater requested the audit. The association’s board voted unanimously to fire Gayle Ward but declined to disclose the reasons for her dismissal.

Among other things, the audit says auditors found conflicts of interest between a law firm, the organization and Ward. It says auditors discovered that the law firm and the organization had provided employment and benefits to a relative of Ward’s and that Ward had received gifts and benefits from the law firm.

Ward’s attorney, Laura McConnell-Corbyn, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

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