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AUDIT FINDS NO THEFT AT PLANETARIUM

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A Salt Lake County audit shows sloppy cashier practices at Hansen Planetarium but does not indicate any money is missing.

Further, the audit does not indicate any actual wrongdoing by anybody. Charles Gibbs, who was interim director of the planetarium for three months, promptly issued a statement citing the audit as clearing him. Gibbs' attorney, James W. McConkie, also blasted Salt Lake County Attorney Doug Short for "illegal search and seizure" of Gibbs' belongings at the planetarium, 15 S. State.The audit was completed by David L. Beck, chief deputy in the Salt Lake County auditor's office. It notes these shortcomings:

- More than one cashier shares a single cash drawer.

- Cashiers do not properly enter all event sales into the cash register.

- Numerous check/cash composition errors were found.

- Cashiers are voiding transactions without documentation or approval.

- Cashiers do not restrictively endorse checks upon receipt.

Salt Lake County Commissioner Mary Callaghan, who has been the commission member over the planetarium for about six weeks, said she wasn't surprised by the findings as they are similar to allegations made before. Any time county policies and procedures are not followed, that's a concern, she said.

"But this goes into the area of sufficient and proper management," she said. "We do have new management at the planetarium."

The new interim director, Mike Peterson, said he was not surprised by the findings, either.

The first action he took when he was appointed in September was to request the audit, he said. "Many of the things (recommendations) in the audit have already been implemented," he said. "They're fairly straightforward, standard operation procedural-type issues that we've already identified and we're already doing."

Peterson said the planetarium will respond on each recommendation in the audit and will ask the auditor's office to return and check "to make sure that we have the highest standards."

The problems cited "are fairly common errors in almost any kind of cash handling," he said.

The audit showed no collusion and no theft "that we can see. It's just some checks and balances weren't quite set as they should be," he said.

In other words, procedures were sloppy enough that cashiers could have dipped into the cash drawer, although there was no indication they actually did.

"Because internal controls over cashiering activities were weak, we were unable to determine if theft occurred," Beck wrote. "We did, however, note areas where improvement would strengthen internal controls."

Callaghan said many of the items noted were similar to allegations made by County Attorney Doug Short, which were also investigated by District Attorney Neal Gunnarson. The audit focused on financial matters, she added.

Once the county attorney's office finishes a report on its investigation, she said, the planetarium will revert to the control of Commissioner Brent Overson.

Gibbs said he is pleased that in addition to the findings of the district attorney, the auditor's review makes it clear he did nothing wrong while he was acting director.

Short, who carried out the raid on Gibbs' material, said the financial audit "is only one portion of what we've been investigating. The auditor doesn't look at everything we're looking at.

"We're still trying to do our investigation. The county commission is trying to block us," he charged.