It’s all about your money: Cooking the books in St. Mary’s City

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Historic Commission audit

Cooking the books in St. Mary’s City

Audit of Historic St. Mary’s City Commission Reveals Trouble in River City’s Bookkeeping

ST. MARY’S CITY, MD. — ‘Where’s the Loot?” An audit of the Historic St. Mary’s City Commission has revealed there might be fraud in ‘River City.’

The Maryland General Assembly’s Department of Legislative Services’, responsible for sorting out which state entities are risking the taxpayer’s money by questionable practices or, in some cases, stealing those funds for personal use, has identified the following tipoff that things aren’t kosher in St. Mary’s City, Md., the site of Maryland Colonial capital.

The Office of Legislative Audits reported that “Our audit disclosed that controls are not in place to ensure that all cash receipts were deposited.”

Maryland’s General Assembly moved the capital from St. Mary’s City to Annapolis over two centuries ago due to the poor road network in Southern Maryland and from the appearances of the audit performed, it may be that the same accountants who cooked the books 200 years ago are still at work.

Nearly a half million bucks were turned over from the Historic Commission to St. Mary’s College, which swallowed up the Commission nearly twenty years ago.

“Independent verifications were not performed to help ensure that all collections were deposited. The Commission’s collections, which totaled approximately $474,000 during the fiscal year 2015, were forwarded to St. Mary’s College of Maryland for deposit. Our review disclosed that the individual who performed the verifications to ensure recorded collections were forwarded to the College also processed the related collections. Furthermore, the individual did not document the verifications. As a result, there was a lack of assurance that all collections were forwarded to the College and ultimately deposited.”

What is more troubling about the moola paid by tourists to the Historic Commission to help defray the cost of operations and salaries which are nearly three million dollars annually is that the problem cited by the auditors for the most recent audit were identified in 2013 but not corrected.

The following information was released by the Office of Legislative Audits:

Status of Findings from Preceding Audit Report

“Our audit included a review to determine the status of the two findings contained in our preceding audit report dated July 11, 2013. We determined that the Commission satisfactorily addressed one of these findings. The remaining finding is repeated in this report.”

“A similar condition was commented upon in our preceding audit report. The Comptroller of Maryland’s Accounting Procedures Manual requires that receipts recorded on initial source documents be traced to deposit by an employee independent of the cash receipts process. Recommendation 1: We recommend that the Commission ensure that an employee, independent of the collection function, verifies that all recorded collections were submitted for deposit with St. Mary’s College of Maryland and that such verifications are documented (repeat). We advised the Commission on accomplishing the necessary separation of duties using existing personnel.”

The three-story "boathouse" with luxury dining facilities overlooks the St. Mary's River and frequently hosts various functions for the College and Historic St. Mary's City Commission.  THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

The three-story “boathouse” with luxury dining facilities overlooks the St. Mary’s River and frequently hosts various functions for the College and Historic St. Mary’s City Commission. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

The Historic St. Mary’s City Executive Director Regina M. Faden and Director of Finance Douglas Hunter responded to the critical audit on April 26, 2016, with a letter acknowledging the serious violation of proper accounting practices that repeated the identification of the findings of the audit that concluded with this statement:

“The Commission does not dispute the finding and has already implemented a verification to comply with recommendations from the Department of Legislative Audits.”

Amusement Park Government (2)The Historic St. Mary’s City Commission consists of 17 members and is responsible for preserving and protecting archeological and historical records of Maryland’s first colonial capital and for appropriately developing and using this historic and scenic site for the education, enjoyment, and general benefit of the public. The Commission is located at St. Mary’s City and operates an outdoor museum and archeological park and an on-site bed and breakfast. According to the State’s records, the Commission’s fiscal year 2015 expenses totaled approximately $2.9 million, the vast majority of which represented payroll costs for its 45 regular and contractual employees.

The Historic Commission had many of its activities installed under the St. Mary’s College Board of Trustees in 1997 in a move which was heralded as an improvement. The Historic Commission is chaired by St. Mary’s County native, Jesuit Father Bill George, longtime head of Georgetown Prep and former liaison for Georgetown University. The board is currently packed with appointments from the liberal Democrat Governor Martin O’Malley, folks not famous for worrying about the funds of taxpayers.

Historic St. Mary’s City Commission Members

Appointed by Governor with Senate advice & consent to 4-year terms:

Rev. William L. George, Chair (chosen by Commission in Sept., 1-year term), 2019

MaryEllen S. Dolan, Esq., 2014; Thomas Trezise, 2016; Kelsey R. M. Bush, 2017; Roland M. Colina, Sr., (a large donor to Democrat campaigns including over $5,000 in 2012 to Rep. Steny Hoyer’s campaign entities) – 2017; Laura J. Cripps, Ph.D., 2017; Danielle E. Troyan, 2017; Michael S. Loughran, 2018; Michael J. Whitson, (Democratic Party operative & fundraiser and O’Malley appointee to the Md. Transportation Authority where in 2015, he opposed toll reductions on Md. Bridges.) 2018; James M. Desmond, (Appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan) 2019; St. Mary’s Commissioner Todd B. Morgan (R.), 2019; Jean B. Russo, Ph.D., 2019.

Ex officio (voting): Lawrence E. Leak, Ph.D., the designee of Chair, Board of Trustees, St. Mary’s College of Maryland; Bonnie M. Green, President, Historic St. Mary’s City Foundation.

Ex officio (nonvoting): Former Delegate and Democrat from St. Mary’s County, J. Ernest Bell II, the designee of Senate President Mike Miller; William (Howie) Grube, son of former St. Mary’s College President Maggie O’Brien – the designee of House Speaker Mike Busch.

The Audit Team on this project were identified in the report as Heather A. Warriner, CPA, Audit Manager; Edward J. Welsh, CFE Senior Auditor.

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