Estancia audit finds wasteful spending, poor oversight

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ESTANCIA, N.M. (KRQE) – A special audit of the town of Estancia found that it was misspending and not properly overseeing taxpayer dollars in a number of areas.

“The books just weren’t being kept, the rules weren’t being followed and the procedures weren’t in place,” said state auditor Tim Keller. “It’s indicative of a government where folks just really aren’t minding the shop.”

That special audit was requested by the town’s administration after it and an independent auditor noticed a number of problems during its annual audit. Town clerk Debra Kelly, who came back to work in the town late in 2015 says the problems were pretty clear.

“I’ve been in government accounting for 20 years and when I came in in December I was shocked,” Kelly said. “I was shocked by the condition that I found the records, the financial records.”

The findings of the audit weren’t pretty. It found approximately $1.6 million in funding that either didn’t have the proper oversight or proper financial controls. It found the town was paying a fee to its bank for not having a high enough account balance. It found that the checkbook hadn’t been balanced for a number of years and a number of payments didn’t add up.

When it came to utilities, that audit found a number of problems. The town wasn’t charging the appropriate taxes, was charging some people late fees and not others, failed to charge a proper reconnect fee and in some cases wasn’t checking water meters at all. The audit claims the town failed to follow many of its own ordinances.

Kelly is now working hard to right the ship and move forward.

“We have a lot of work ahead,” Kelly said. “It’s the citizens money that we’re spending and we need to do it in a sound fiduciary manner.”

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