Yorba Linda establishes procedure for reports of fraudulent financial activities in city government
A formal mechanism to receive and review reports of “illegal, improper, wasteful or fraudulent” fiscal activities in Yorba Linda's governmental operations has been approved on a 5-0 vote by the City Council.
The new and easy-to-use procedure will allow residents and city employees to anonymously report concerns on a “fraud hotline,” a dedicated phone number that will be set up to receive messages about suspicious activity, Finance Director Scott Catlett reported to council members.
“Additionally, an online form on the city's website that sends an email to a fraud hotline email inbox would provide a second option for reports to be submitted,” Catlett, who also serves as the city's treasurer, stated.
Fraud reporting calls and emails will go to Catlett initially, with each reported item shared with City Manager Mark Pulone, Assistant City Manager David Christian and the department head responsible for the area of concern, as applicable, Catlett stated.
“Staff would then work to verify that the reported concern is valid and then undertake corrective action,” Catlett noted, adding that a summary of all reports received would be provided to the city's Finance Committee on a quarterly basis.
Two council members, currently Peggy Huang and Beth Haney, make up the committee.
A staff analysis of each concern and information outlining how a reported matter was addressed, if corrective action was needed, also would be reported to the committee, with results forwarded to the council for the “consent calendar,” which lists routine items for a single vote.
The city will inform the public of these new reporting mechanisms in the city newsletter and on the city's website. Previously, the only method to report fraud anonymously was by mail.
Also, council approved designating the Finance Committee as the city's Audit Subcommittee, with new responsibilities, including interacting with the city's contract auditing firm, reviewing financial statements in detail and undertaking other council-directed oversight activities.
The committee, which currently meets monthly to mainly review the city's check register, listing each city payment, will now meet quarterly to review all city financial transactions.
And in addition to the annual audit conducted by a firm under contract with the city, the city will pay for two special audits each year in areas to be selected by the Finance Committee.
Finally, in a move expected to “enhance transparency relative to the city's financial data,” the OpenGov portal previously open only for internal city use will be available on the city website.
Catlett stated the system will provide “a valuable tool to review the city's budget and spending,” so residents won't need to file public records requests for the information.
Costs are $9,000 yearly for OpenGov, not more than $10,000 annually for the special audits and staff time for the fraud reporting procedures.