Safe debacle demonstrates need for focus

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 30, 2007

The issue: A safe cracker had to open the police drug safe this week.

Our position: This incidence and the reported missing $3,300 is indicative of poor management.

In a management letter to Mayor James Perkins Jr. and members of the Selma City Council, the auditors of Wilson Price noted the city didn’t reconcile accounts that tracked restitution funds and confiscated drug money during the year.

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The year was fiscal 2006.

The management letter, which was not made publicly available, was dated May 8, 2007.

The letter also noted that the accounts that tracked restitution funds and confiscated drug money are collected and kept by the Magistrate Court.

The accounting firm recommended that the city develop policies and procedures relating to the accounts. The firm also recommended that the city’s treasurer review the accounts on a regular basis to ensure they are being reconciled.

The city responded that is would work with the magistrate’s office and the police department, where the money is collected, to develop a process that would track, maintain and reconcile supporting documentation of collections and payments of the funds.

The city treasurer will review and monitor accounts monthly to ensure the city is in compliance.

That promise was made in May.

On Thursday, a reporter with The Selma Times-Journal walked into police headquarters and discovered that a locksmith had been called to break into the drug safe on the third floor.

Officers in the drug unit have been reassigned to the street. Police Chief Jimmy Martin said he wanted an accounting; he wanted to match drugs seized to dollars.

On Friday, Martin told the same reporter with the Times-Journal some cash was missing from the safe. Later, the chief said $3,300 is missing from the safe.

It appears that if the city had carried out the recommendations of the auditors written in a statement nearly seven months ago, that Martin would know exactly what was in the safe and the combination of that safe.

At least someone with rank should have known the combination.

Incidences such as these raise serious questions about the day-to-day operations of the city. The chief is ultimately responsible for what occurs in his department. The chain of command shows that the mayor holds the chief accountable.

If $3,300 is missing from the police department, then what else is wrong with the record keeping within city ranks?

Perkins needs to get a grip on the business at hand. As mayor of Selma, the buck stops with him.