Financial firm responds to city’s lawsuit

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DIXON – CliftonLarsonAllen advised city officials in writing more than once that there was a problem with its lack of segregation of duties at City Hall, the company says.

The city has amended its lawsuit against CliftonLarsonAllen, one of the largest financial consultants in the United States, saying the company should have detected the theft of nearly $54 million by former comptroller Rita Crundwell.

“We believe we met our obligation to provide the city’s officials with information about its finances,” the company said in a statement to Sauk Valley Media.

Court documents revealed Crundwell used 179 phony invoices to steal city funds. The invoices lacked key information, such as the agency’s emblem or logo and a contact name and number of an employee who could be reached for questions.

While those and other examples should have raised suspicion, no evaluation or investigation was made of the phony documents by CliftonLarsonAllen for the past 21 years, the city government says in its suit.

The company also violated a federal statute by conducting an audit and not being an independent firm, the suit says. In other words, it was performing an audit on its own financial statements, since it compiled payroll and other city finances.

CliftonLarsonAllen denies it conducted audits for the city since April 2006.

Instead, their company spokeswoman says the firm was performing a compilation.

There are three level of financial reporting. A compilation is the lowest and involves strictly formatting financial data. The highest level of financial reporting is an audit, which involves study of the financial data presented.

“We provided the city audit services through April 30, 2005, and compilation services since April 30, 2006,” Jennifer Dirks said in a statement sent to SVM over the weekend.

“The contracts executed with the city and the reports issued on the financial statements of the city clearly described the services we were contracted to perform and did perform. The type of audits our firm performed through 2005 and the compilation services provided since 2006 did not require the sort of detailed testing needed to uncover the fraud or a forensic investigation to determine if the city’s comptroller Rita Crundwell was fabricating invoices.”

Documents dating back to 2006 from CliftonLarsonAllen on the city’s website refer to its reports as “compilation reports.”

Mayor Jim Burke declined to answer questions in regard to the city’s relationship with CliftonLarsonAllen, stating the city’s attorney Devon Bruce of Power, Rogers and Smith advised him not to make statements while litigation is pending.

According to the amended lawsuit, the firm determined it was not “independent” in 2005, according to nationally recognized accounting standards, which prevented it from performing the audit by federal statute.

The firm reached out to Janis Card Co., which had only two certified public accountants, little or no experience in performing municipal audits, and lacked the resources to perform the city’s audits.

A partner in the firm told Janis Card Co. that in return for signing the audit for the city, CliftonLarsonAllen would conduct and prepare the audit.

Further, CliftonLarsonAllen told the city it was doing only a compilation, meaning it provided financial statements for the audit, yet referred to their work as an “audit” in several emails to city supervisors that are listed in court documents.

In fiscal years 2010 through 2012, the firm billed the city $33,500, $34,750, and $37,000, respectively, for its work.

Janis Card Co. billed the city a total of $40,000 between 2006 and 2011. It also did not do the fieldwork or test fixed assets for the audit, according to the suit

The company said it will respond to these claims in proceedings.

“We are confident in the integrity and professionalism of the partners and employees of our firm,” the statement said.

“As accountants and financial services professionals dedicated to the highest level of client service, we take the fraud perpetrated by Rita Crundwell very seriously. We have been working with the City as it seeks to discover all of the facts that will describe what has happened in this case.

“CliftonLarsonAllen is one of the most respected firms in the country and we are committed to continuously enhancing our operations, performance, and practices to fulfill our responsibility to our clients.”

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