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State Auditor visits Panhandle area
May 07, 2012 Jerry Purvis   

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Nebraska Auditor Mike Foley

Mike Foley, Nebraska Auditor of Public Accounts, made a stop in Scottsbluff on Tuesday to discuss his role in state government and why the office is necessary.

He spoke before the Scottsbluff-Gering Rotary Club and later at the Western Nebraska Regional Airport.

Foley talked about what he calls “Auditor War Stories,” an overview of several of the cases his office has handled. Some cases end up in the media because of malfeasance involving public officials.

“I highlight some of the key cases we handled involving embezzlement, improprieties and inefficiencies,” Foley said. “There always seems to be a case someplace. It’s important for these violations to be exposed and brought to public attention.”

Most recent is a case involving Gretna City Administrator Colleen Lawry, who was fired and charged with felony theft of city funds. The action came after an audit revealed she had used a senior citizens lunch fund for personal purchases.

“In our routine auditing work, we might find something peculiar, so we investigate further,” Foley said. “Other times, people just call us out of the blue with tips. This can be very fruitful for us.”

He said that further investigation often leads to a simple matter of lax accounting practices. Other times, criminal activity is involved.

“There’s always going to be human error when you’re dealing with money. We understand that and try to get the problem fixed,” Foley said. “Other times, people have ulterior motives, so it’s important they be found and removed from government.”

Foley said the Auditor of Public Accounts is one of those offices that few people know about and often can’t name the auditor in charge. “It’s important for the state to have appropriate oversight of all government functions and money, whether it’s on the state or local level.”

He added that his office has the authority to audit both state and local agencies, such as cities and school districts.

“Typically, all local government bodies are audited by local CPA firms,” Foley said. “Those reports are filed in the state auditor’s office. If something doesn’t look right, we can investigate further. We’ve done that quite frequently.”

He said while his office isn’t involved directly in the criminal dimension of any case, they do work with law enforcement and offer expert testimony if any case goes to trial.
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