- Associated Press - Sunday, May 22, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A new audit offers a scathing look at the state agency responsible for emergency communications following the discovery of a $1 million embezzlement scheme by an employee.

The State Auditor’s Office reported the Utah Communications Authority failed to disclose finances and did not sufficiently oversee the use of agency credit cards.

The audit calls for a legislative review of the agency’s independent status.

Performance audit director David Pulsipher told the Salt Lake Tribune (https://bit.ly/20nhy6x ) that “it was about the ripest environment possible” for that embezzlement to happen.

Board Chairwoman Tina Mathieu warned legislators that efforts to end the independent network could impact law enforcement and first responders.

“We have been aggressively addressing the concerns,” she said.

The audit also criticized the 27-member board at an agency with 24 employees.

“The board consists of more than twice the number of members of any other independent state entity, convoluting board oversight,” the audit said.

West Valley City police, the Salt Lake County district attorney and the FBI are investigating the embezzlement case.

Former administrative assistant Patricia Nelson and her daughter Crystal Evans acknowledged their roles in the scheme in court and agreed to a $2.3 million judgment in a lawsuit brought by the agency.

An attorney with the authority, Quinton Stephens, told legislators that the two have paid back about a quarter of the confirmed losses.

Steve Proctor resigned his post as agency director as a result.

Legislators decided to withhold about $17 million in agency funds until a new director is hired and other fixes are made.

The Deseret News reported that a legislative committee voted in favor of researching a possible bill that would force the agency to use Utah’s accounting system.

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