Audit shows Detroit Finance Department is missing more than $310,000

Auditor General's report shows Detroit Finance Department is missing thousands of dollars from city cash register

By Rod Meloni - Reporter, CFP ®
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DETROIT - An Auditor's General report into the city of Detroit Finance Department's Assessments Division cash receipts over the past four years shows the city is missing more than $310,000.

The report was dropped on Detroit City Council on Wednesday afternoon. It's fairly clear most of the money was stolen from a cash register on the 8th floor of City Council.

Some would call it a window into how badly managed the city of Detroit has been.

The auditor's report says the department operator with next to no operational controls and a cash register turned into a personal piggy bank for someone. The register sits behind an 8th-floor counter where property taxes are paid among other things.

Read more: Detroit city in crisis section

Since 2007, $310,000 in cash went missing from that register. The report also says 40 percent of all the cash that went into the drawer went missing over three years. In fact, in 2007 through 2008, every penny that went into the cash register went missing.

It was not found out because the department, according to the Auditor General, has no effective citywide cash management policy. The city operated like a child's lemonade stand. Everyone dipped into the till. This was all while the city was going broke. The department itself went over budget every year to the tune of $94 million.

It was not a happy reception at the City Council table for councilmember Ken Cockrel and Linda Bade, the new Detroit assessor.

"Looking at it, it's hard not to come to the conclusion that leadership in this division was asleep at the switch," Cockrel said.

Cockrel posed a simple question to Bade: Should everyone in the department be fired?

There was no answer. However, as of Wednesday, there are no concrete answers about what happened. The assessor said the division is now changing its operating methods.

The city of Detroit is $45 million in debt. The state of Michigan is withholding cash until the city gets on track.

"The city of Detroit is going to run out of cash by December," said Irvin Corely Jr. Detroit fiscal analyst.

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