- Associated Press - Friday, October 20, 2017

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A critical state audit that says more than $1.7 million in utility revenue a small southeastern Oklahoma city collected was never deposited has been turned over to the FBI and the state Attorney General’s Office to consider criminal charges, the state’s top auditor said Friday.

A forensic audit of Hartshorne, a city of about 2,100 residents located 144 miles (232 kilometers) southeast of Oklahoma City, shows utility revenue collected between July 2009 and July 2016 never made it into municipal bank accounts, state Auditor & Inspector Stephen Jones said. Jones said auditors believe utility deposits received before 2009 were also not deposited and there could be “substantially more” missing revenue.

In addition, the audit indicates city funds were misappropriated by former city officials and says that a former city treasurer “did not appear to effectively execute her duties” to collect, record, and deposit utility billing revenue. Between July 2014 and July 2016, records reflect that $617,590 in utility payments were posted to customer accounts but were not deposited.

The former city treasurer, Shirley Day, did not immediately return a telephone call from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Jones said the state Attorney General’s Office and the FBI have expressed interest in the report’s findings that city funds were misappropriated. Among other things, the audit says that between November 2015 and May 2016 at least $18,004 in fines collected by the Hartshorne Municipal Court were misappropriated and that at least $80,083 in personal expenditures were charged to a city credit card.

The audit says the Hartshorne City Council violated the state’s Open Meetings Act on several occasions during the audit period, including during a June 2016 meeting where action was taken on audit and budget approvals without previous public notice as required by law. The audit also says city officials did not fulfill open records requests timely or completely.

“It’s obvious that laws have been violated,” Jones said. His office said the audit’s findings are the largest misappropriation of public funds identified in any state audit since Jones was sworn into the office almost seven years ago.

Jones‘ office initiated the state audit after a group of Hartshorne citizens alleged in early 2016 that some members of the Hartshorne City Council were not responding to citizens’ concerns and sought a citizen petition requesting a special audit. The successful petition was verified by the Pittsburg County Election Board Secretary in September 2016.

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