Forensic audit at Joliet housing agency could be completed this year
BY BOB OKON email@example.com October 10, 2013 7:24PM
Charlene Potts, the chief financial officer of the Joliet Housing Authority was charged in a scheme that defrauded the Chicago Housing Authority of nearly $200,000.
Updated: November 12, 2013 6:33AM
A Joliet accounting firm hopes to complete a forensic audit of the Housing Authority of Joliet’s former chief financial officer’s activities by the end of the year.
A partner with the firm, however, cautioned housing commissioners that “with a forensic audit you’re guided by what you find” and did not offer a definite time line for the investigation.
The housing board on Tuesday hired Wermer, Rogers, Doran & Ruzon to look for any misuse of funds that might have occurred when Charlene Potts was at the agency. Potts was chief financial officer for two years before she was arrested in August for her alleged involvement in a nearly $200,000 embezzlement scheme when she was working for the Chicago Housing Authority between 2005 and 2008.
Edward Marso, a partner with Wermer, Rogers, Doran & Ruzon, laid out some of the firm’s investigative strategy to the housing board at its meeting Wednesday.
“I would like to get in here by November and have everything buttoned up by the end of the year,” Marso said.
Marso, talking in generalities without mentioning Potts by name or the circumstances of her arrest, indicated that the first step will be to talk with Cook County authorities about what happened at the Chicago Housing Authority.
“Typically, when someone finds a way to circumvent the system and they haven’t been caught, they take that methodology with them,” he said.
The firm will examine phases and stages of Potts’ work in Joliet and report back to the board on findings, Marso said. The board would then decide whether it is satisfied that there was no misappropriation of money in Joliet or whether the investigation should proceed further.
Marso said the audit also will examine Potts’ work later in her time at the Housing Authority of Joliet because, “As time progresses, people tend to get more and more bold with their maneuvering.” But, he said, “It could be our controls here are tighter and didn’t present the same opportunity.”
The agreement approved with Wermer, Rogers, Doran & Ruzon allows the firm to charge up to $59,000, housing authority Chief Executive Officer Michael Simelton said. The final cost of the investigation could be less, though, he said.
Simelton said the housing authority has not found any evidence that Potts misappropriated money in Joliet.
Howard Ellison, another partner with the accounting firm, said the investigation also will examine new vendors hired at the housing authority and noted that businesses providing a service rather than a product can create “a good way to skim money out of an organization.”
Ellison said the firm will provide a recommendation if it finds weaknesses in the housing authority’s financial controls.
Potts was fired in August after her arrest. She had been chief financial officer since August 2011 and had worked as an assistant to her predecessor for a few months before that. Potts was first hired by the Housing Authority of Joliet in 2010 as a temporary leasing agent.
At the CHA, Potts processed payments to lenders, landlords and tenants. She is accused of issuing more than $170,000 in phony checks to her husband, Scott Washington.