HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) - An independent audit to the City of Hampton's cigarette sting showed the operation allowed lax procedures, providing similar results to the city's findings last year.
Several investigations into the Hampton Police Division's misuse of money stemmed from an undercover cigarette sales operation solicited by Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms starting in June 2010.
A previous investigation by the State Police last year revealed $8,000 was spent by the department in undocumented travel and investigative funds.
An internal investigation last December found similar results and recommended the police division closely follow all city procedures, including handling of finances.
The external audit, reported by the national auditing firm Cherry Bekaert, was an effort to get an outsider's perspective of the cigarette operation. It was presented to Hampton City Council Wednesday afternoon.
A memorandum between Hampton police and the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office stated monthly, quarterly and yearly audits were required for the cigarette sting. However, the investigation revealed the monthly audits were "conducted by an HPD employee... [who] was not an accountant, bookkeeper or otherwise trained in tracking financial transactions."
Robert Bielat, an accountant with Cherry Bekaert told council Wednesday the documents found lacked any other records other than the cigarette buys.
"Is there anything I saw during the course of this work that made me go 'wow'? No," Bielat said. "I can't say it unequivocally that there's nothing there [because of the lack of detailed records] but there was nothing that made me come back to management and say there's something we should come back and look at."
Council member Donnie Tuck said the lack of proper record-keeping hurt the city.
City Manager Mary Bunting went on to say that Cherry Bakeart's findings were very similar to those presented in the December 2012 internal investigation.
"We can all have more confidence [in the December conclusions] as they have been corroborated [by an independent firm," Bunting said.
The funds for the sting were provided by at ATF.
"I think it's comforting to know it wasn't done with taxpayer money," Bielat said.
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