The county clerk in Wayne County had a deficit of nearly $140,000 in her office over two years, according to a state audit released Thursday.
More than $118,000 of the shortfall occurred because Clerk Melissa Turpin's office took in money in 2007 and 2008 that it did not deposit in the bank, the audit said.
That money is missing, state Auditor Crit Luallen said in an interview.
Luallen's office has referred findings from the audit to state police, the state Attorney General's Office and the local prosecutor for further investigation.
"Whenever we find money we cannot account for and it is missing, that results in a criminal referral," Luallen said.
The rest of the $139,986 shortfall came because auditors disallowed $21,200 in spending by Turpin, including thousands she paid her husband.
Turpin didn't have documentation to show that the spending was a legitimate expense, the audit said.
Turpin was not available for comment Thursday. An employee in her office said she would be out until Monday.
She didn't submit a response to the auditor's office.
Turpin was a deputy clerk for many years before winning election and taking over as clerk in 2007. The office ran a deficit of $87,056 that year, according to an earlier audit.
Turpin made up that shortfall with money the office collected in 2008, crediting it back to 2007 accounts, but that meant the deficit rolled over to 2008, the audit said.
Then in 2008, the office collected an additional $31,730 that it didn't deposit in the bank, running the total deficit for 2007 and 2008 to more than $118,000, the audit said.
When the $87,056 was reported missing in the earlier audit, Turpin said that she didn't think anyone at her office had stolen the money and that she hoped the discrepancy was an accounting problem.
However, if the 2007 shortfall had resulted from a bookkeeping problem — if it had been put in the wrong account, for instance — the 2008 audit would have identified a surplus, said Cindy James, assistant state auditor.
In addition to the serious deficit, Luallen said, it also was troubling that Turpin had benefited by making payments to her husband.
The audit said Turpin wrote 22 checks to her husband, for a total of $12,650, for cleaning, painting and unspecified labor at the office. None of that spending was properly documented, the audit said.
Auditors also disallowed some spending on an office renovation that was not properly documented.
Turpin bounced a $122 check she wrote to her own office in December for vehicle property taxes, the audit said.
She didn't cover the check — and two others returned for insufficient funds — until May 18 after an auditor brought it to her attention, the audit said.
The audit recommended that Turpin put in nearly $140,000 of her own money to cover the shortfall from 2007 and 2008, and then pay Wayne County Fiscal Court $108,256 in 2008 excess fees it should have gotten.
County clerks collect a wide range of fees and taxes that help fund state and local government. If the office collects excess fees, it turns those over to the county fiscal court.
It's an important source of revenue for many counties.
"That would be a big amount" for the fiscal court to get, said deputy Judge-Executive Peggy Baker.