By John Balch
DIERKS – An investigative report into the Dierks Water and Sewer Department has been issued by the state and reveals that more than $500,000 is unaccounted in city funds.
The report was conducted for the period of Jan. 1, 2015 through Sept. 30, 2020 and found that receipts exceeded bank account deposits by $501,193 during that timeframe.
“The unaccounted-for funds consisted primarily of cash receipts that were not deposited, The Secretary/Water Clerk was responsible for bank deposits and was custodian of the undeposited funds,” according to the report issued last Friday.
The secretary/water clerk during the timeframe was Cheryl Delarosa, 59, of Dierks, who surrender to the Howard County Sheriff’s Department on Aug. 11 on six felony counts of theft of property and an additional six counts of felony abuse of office. Delarosa was terminated from her position on Jan. 25, 2021.
“Several internal control deficiencies contributed to funds being apparently misappropriated and the discrepancies not being detected,” according to the report.
According to reporting on arkansasonline.com, Dierks Mayor Ronnie Cogburn told the state Legislative Joint Auditing Committee Friday that the city has changed the way it handles payments and that
it took him “three to four months” to notice something was wrong with the system’s finances. He also said Delarosa at the time did not have any oversight when it came to deposits and bookkeeping tasks for the water department.
Coburn, who was elected in 2018, also told the committee that the thefts have probably been happening for a longer period of time that the report covered. An attempt to buy new water meters apparently raised red flags for the mayor.
The city of Dierks also did not comply with audit requirements for years ended Dec. 31, 2018, 2017, 2017, 2016 and 2015. The city attempted to resolve the issue by contracting with a certified public accountant but Mayor Cogburn told the committee Delarosa “never would get him all the stuff that was needed. Finally, the guy gave up.”