Audit finds room for improvement in Superior Court probation dept.
GREENFIELD — A state audit of the Franklin County Superior Court turned up several areas of concern, mainly in the probation department.
The audit, which focused on the period from July 1, 2012 to Aug. 31, 2013, found that the probation department was inconsistent in its assessments, waivers and collections of probationers’ fees.
The audit said some of the court’s judges allowed probation officers to decide whether probationers should pay supervision fees or perform community service, instead of the decision being made by the justices. It also reported that the probation office does not hold administrative hearings to address probationers who are behind on their fees.
The probation office responded that it will more closely follow state laws for procedures to assess and waive fees and community service hours.
A central database of community service hours has been compiled to address another fault found in the audit. Previously, service hours were recorded in individual case files.
The probation office will also perform reviews of probationers’ ability to pay probation and legal fees, after the audit found that those reviews had not been conducted every six months as required.
The office will also make more of an attempt to collect fees assessed for court-appointed lawyers. In a review of 10 cases, the audit found that nine of the defendants were assessed a $150 fee for legal counsel and eight of them did not pay within the 60-day limit.
The probation office responded that it would monitor the collection of outstanding legal fees.
The audit also found one case where a defendant’s car title had been taken as partial bail, though the courts did not instate a lien on the vehicle or assess a cash value for it.
An inventory of the probation department’s furniture and equipment lacked a cost breakdown of items, and the list was not physically checked and updated properly, according to the audit.
The audit report said that the former chief probation officer and inventory liaison were not aware of the need to physically confirm each item’s existence at the end of each fiscal year.
The department responded, saying that it has asked the trial court administration for an updated, detailed inventory, which will be maintained.
The audit also found several improvements since the court’s 2006 audit.
The probation department improved its processing, depositing and accounting of cash. The Superior Court developed an internal control plan and began to perform periodic risk assessments. The court also brought itself in line with procedures for reconciling its monthly revenue, as suggested by the previous audit.
The audit also turned up many things the court has been doing correctly.
Financial records were found to be accurate and up to date, evidence was being cared for and secured properly, and internal controls over civil escrow accounts and bail funds, as well as overall internal controls, were deemed adequate.
You can reach David Rainville at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 279 On Twitter, follow @RecorderRain