Nut Tree Airport Financial Investigation Continues

Saturday, March 25, 2006
DA investigating Nut Tree Airport
Audit reveals gross mismanagement
By Tom Hall
The Vacaville (CA) Reporter

A county audit on operations at the Nut Tree Airport released Friday shows gross mismanagement of funds and records. The audit lays out 22 specific problems with record-keeping and financial reporting, the safeguarding of resources, compliance with county policy and operations. The findings by Deputy Auditor-Controller Ian Goldberg has led to a criminal investigation from the county District Attorney’s Office. An investigator said an announcement on whether the district attorney will prosecute former airport employees will be made Monday. The listed problems include:

  • All transactions are not recorded and some are not authorized.
  • Late-payment fees are not uniformly assessed or collected.
  • Cash receipts are not regularly given.
  • Businesses illegally operate out of the airport without proper lease agreements.
  • Procedures for the issuance and cancellation of county credit cards are not enforced.
  • Aircraft insurance requirements are not enforced.
  • Records of security key cards are not kept, and fees from those cards are not accounted for.
  • Controls on fuel at the airport are inadequate.

    Simona Padilla-Scholtens, the county’s lead auditor-controller, said a pattern of apparent improprieties led her office to contact the district attorney for a possible criminal investigation.

    “What the auditor and audit manager found were inappropriate irregularities, not simple errors,” Padilla-Scholtens said.

    The auditor-controller said the lack of accurate financial records cause the most concern. She said the lack of timely account balancing on the part of past airport employees indicates something more than just sloppy record-keeping.

    No potential criminal defendants have yet been named, though county officials have indicated current management at the airport, led by manager Andy Swanson, inherited the problem instead of creating it.

    A 2003 management review cited numerous procedural concerns, but did not address specific financial concerns.

    Padilla-Scholtens said the cash-handling and receipts issues have been mostly rectified as stricter guidelines were put into place. The audit, which is scheduled to be accepted Tuesday by the county Board of Supervisors, also calls for unscheduled inspections from an outside accountant to check in on record-keeping progress. The board will meet at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the county building at 675 Texas St. in Fairfield.

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