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Audit finds nearly $64,000 misappropriated in small Central Oklahoma town

Coyle has a population of about 350 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
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Coyle has a population of about 350 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Thousands of dollars were misappropriated during 2018 and 2019 in the Town of Coyle, according to an investigative audit from the Oklahoma State Auditor & Inspector.

The audit found Jennifer Jones, the town’s former clerk and treasurer, misappropriated $63,663.93 in Town and Coyle Public Works Authority funds, according to the report. It also lists $6,219 of questioned costs related to unauthorized payroll payments to Jones and her spouse, William Jones.

Cindy Byrd, Oklahoma state auditor and inspector, said in a press release anyone handling public money must undergo extensive oversight and accountability.

“Every case of fraud, waste, or abuse we uncover is preventable,” Byrd said. “The State Auditor & Inspector’s office is here to help any government entity in Oklahoma build the proper safeguards to stop misappropriation before it starts.”

The Town of Coyle has an average of $301,000 in annual revenue, and 20% of annual revenues were misappropriated in the audit period, according to the press release.

Jones mainly misappropriated cash and checks intended for utility payments and deposits, fire department dues and payments, and citation payments. Coyle does not have the staff available to handle the duties surrounding cash collection, according to the report.

In the report, it’s recommended for the town to stop accepting this type of payment, but if cash continues to be taken in, the board should conduct a monthly review of bank statements.

A town trustee and local certified public account found the flaws reported to the Logan County District Attorney’s office. The DA then requested the investigative audit from the state auditor.

“Our forensic audit team worked tirelessly and deserves the credit for uncovering the problems in Coyle,” Byrd said. “However, our work would not have been possible if not for a former CPA serving on the Town of Coyle Board of Trustees who discovered these irregularities. She is an example of how leaders should be vigilant in their oversight of spending.”

The audit report has been given to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the District Attorney’s office.

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Anna Pope is a reporter covering agriculture and rural issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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